Sunday, December 5, 2010
Thanksgiving is a rough holiday to celebrate abroad. As friends and family gather back home, expats either try to ignore the thoughts of turkey or mount large-scale reproductions of the gluttony, matching local ingredients to traditional recipes. Or, they binge on tacos and beer. With the complicity of my friend Matt, that is what I did.
Tacos, to be fair, take many forms, none of them resembling the crunchy, u-shaped, hard-shelled monstronsities served in middle school cafeterias. The basic idea--a soft corn tortilla filled with something--can become tacos de canasta, tacos de cabeza, tacos al pastor, tacos de mariscos, tacos al carbon, or tacos de guisado. Fillings come shaved off giant spits of seasoned pork, plucked from a cauldron of grease and diced into nuggets that melt on your tongue, flaked from the bones of meat simmered in rich sauces and ladled into the tortilla, or grilled over pungent charcoal and marinaded in their own smoke...
The humble taco is a meal at all hours. Savory and moist, warmed with steam and pulled from a basket on a street corner, it can be a satisfying breakfast. Served at sunny folding tables with plastic stools and topped with guacamole, it makes for a quick lunch. But most often, it is a meal for the night, when cantinas are closing and the warmth of the food and the spice of the salsa cuts the nip in the air.
There is, perhaps, a strange affinity between tacos and Thanksgiving. If the traditional autumn meal is best consumed in the cozy confines of a warm home amongst friends and family, the best taquerias are snug and comforting in their own way. There is a communion among those who slip into these dim nooks seeking a bit of rest and a quick meal; it is in the passing of salsas and the offerings of seats, in the crossed glances and murmured 'provecho's. Huddled around a cramped counter dotted with bowls of salsa, a bare bulb overhead pushing back the darkness, there is indeed much to be thankful for.