I grew up without the benefit of Mexican food. We didn’t even eat tacos when I was a kid. It might have been worth it to see the look on Dad’s face if he sat down at the dinner table looking for pot roast and potatoes and Mom plopped down a plate of crunchy tacos in front of him. It’s actually not worth imaging because it would never have happened, not the least of which was because none of us had probably ever even heard of tacos.
Sometime in the late 60s or early 70s, Taco John’s moved into town. You have to understand that having a fast food joint in Columbus in 1970 was a big deal. There were very few chain restaurants. We had a Godfather’s Pizza, a Dairy Queen, a Pizza Hut, but no Burger King or McDonalds or Arby’s. So you would think that we would have flocked to Taco John’s. Perhaps others were flocking. There was no flocking by me. I don’t think I went a single time, because MEXICAN FOOD. I knew nothing about Mexican food.
In fact, I knew nothing about Mexican food until my folks moved to Leadville, Colorado, in 1973. I spent the summer with them in Leadville before returning to Lincoln to complete my sophomore year at the University of Nebraska. Leadville might as well have been Mars. The people looked, talked, acted, and certainly ate differently than that to which we were familiar.
What was different about the way they ate? MEXICAN FOOD. My first bite, and I was in love. My whole family was in love. I have been in love with Mexican food ever since, the spicier, the better. In fact, following my colon resection surgery in 2011, I met with the doctor who had done the surgery to find out if/how my life would be different. We talked a bit, and then I swallowed hard and asked him the question that was troubling me the most: Can I still eat spicy Mexican food? He assured me I could. His name was Dr. Lopez, so there’s that…..
Anyway, Sunday night, Bill and I had our neighbors over for dinner. They are snowbirds like us, and are from Alberta, Canada. They like to cook and enjoy good food. It became clear that he in particular likes to cook. So I was a bit stressed about what to make for dinner.
I decided on Mexican food. Specifically, I decided to make pollo asado, using Ree Drummond’s fabulous recipe. It involves marinating boneless chicken breasts or thighs in a mixture of olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice, onions, and seasonings. It’s delicious and so, so pretty (what with all the citrus fruits).
It always takes me so long to get to the point. I wonder how many of you just give up about 2/3 of the way through my blogs when they seemingly have no point. Anyway, my point is that it turns out they had never tasted Mexican food. I mentioned that to Jen over the phone, and she responded as though I had said they have second spouses back in Edmonton. How can they live four months of the year in AZ and not have ever tried Mexican food, she asked. A fair question; however, they had not.
But they were game, and it was a win, my friends. I had to literally show them how to wrap the meat into a burrito-like a package, but they nailed the art of wrapping, and seemed to enjoy every single bite.
By the way, during Bill’s illustrious acting career, one of his gigs was playing the father of a small family eating Taco John’s tacos. None of the actors had speaking parts, so the commercial, which never ran in Colorado, apparently had voice over. What Bill remembers is that the four of them – he, his show biz wife, and his show biz kids – sat at a picnic table and a fan was blowing leaves underneath the table. I asked him if he had to actually eat the tacos.
“They tasted awful, so we had the kids eat them and we drank Taco John sodas,” he said.
I’m thankful our Canadian neighbors’ first bite of Mexican food wasn’t Taco John’s.