Last night I enjoyed some veggie tacos made with blue corn taco shells. They were very tasty, especially after toasting in the oven for a minute. It has been a while since I’ve had crunchy tacos. I pretty much only eat the ones my mom makes, at my request, when I visit her. For many Americans my age, it is a comfort food that we grew up with.
So, as I was enjoying my blue corn tacos filled with spicy red cabbage slaw, black beans, sprouts and shredded zucchini, I was reminded of an awesome essay from the cookbook Nuevo Tex Mex, by David Garrido and Robb Walsh. It introduced the taco chapter, and was titled: The Taco Dichotomy: Soft vs. Crunchy.
According to the authors, the biggest difference between Mexican food and Tex-Mex is crunch:
” Mexicans don’t care much about crunch. And on this side of the border, we are crunchaholics. Maybe Americans like crunchy foods because we crave stimulation. Maybe crunching relieves stress. Whatever the reason, Americans have had a long love affair with salty, crunchy foods.”
Whether its the crunchy, bright yellow, prepackaged shells filled with shredded cheddar, iceberg lettuce, diced tomato and sour cream of my childhood; or the tiny, soft, white tortillas wrapped around tender chunks of grilled steak–dressed simply with radishes and lime–that I experienced in Baja California many years later, I love tacos.
The trick is that, this time around, I enjoy tacos without the ground beef, steak, cheese or obligatory dollop of sour cream; which opens up a whole new universe of tacos. In my head I am already picturing my next dinner party, and all the fun taco toppings I want to try.
I got some phenomenal recipe ideas from Garrido’s book–like mushroom salsa. I also want to try some of my own ideas, like saffron-tinged garbanzos, cilantro-lime cashew ricotta, creamy chipotle corn slaw, seitan ropa vieja, nopalitos, rajas in tomatillo sauce, potatoes pipian, black bean falafel, jicama pico, pumpkin and raisin adobo, and last but not least, guacamole…all laid out accross the table to be sampled in limitless combinations!
If you were invited, what would YOU bring?
To inspire you, here’s a hilarious commentary on the modern taco shell by George Lopez. Fast forward to the 4:40 mark.