15 January 2012

Tale of the Ole Taco

Once a week Liz makes out the dinner menu for the upcoming week as well as the grocery list. I pay for it. To be fair, she does ask me, “What do you want?” or “What do you think about . . . ?”

But, basically, she makes out what she wants to eat, and I go along with it.

I like this arrangement, Liz deciding what we're going to eat for dinner. Just one more decision (actually, seven decisions) I don't have to make.

One of our favorite meals we have about twice a month is taco.

Now, Altus has a Mexican restaurant on every corner. They’re competing with the churches around here to see who can proliferate one small southwest Oklahoma town with the largest number of the Same Thing.

So, if you ever need a Mexican meal or a baptizing, Altus can accommodate you quite well with both.

I've eaten at several of the local Mexican restaurants around Altus, most of them mom-and-pop places, not fast-food chains.

They all seem the same to me. It also seems the secret to having a local Mexican restaurant is to paint the outside of the building in some arrangement of Green, White, and Red--maybe have a sombrero or burro or cactus painted on the sign or the sides of the building.

Same thing for the inside: Green, White, Red, sombrero, burro, cactus.

And cheese.

Lots of cheese on every entrée. Sometimes I want to order some meat, lettuce, tomato, onions, et al to go along with my Mexican cheese meal.

I’ve eaten at a couple of “real” Mexican restaurants along the border, and the menus at the border restaurants are quite different from the local places.

When I eat something I like very much, I want to make it myself at home.
To do this, I try to guess what ingredients are mixed together.

Thus begins a trial-and-error period in which Liz and others are subjected to my experiments to imitate good food.

Here’s the seasoning I’ve come up with for Larry Mike’s Ole Tacos:
*      1 tablespoon chili powder
*      ½ teaspoon garlic powder
*      ½ teaspoon onion powder
*      ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
*      ¼ dried oregano
*      ½ teaspoon paprika
*      1½ teaspoons ground cumin
*      1 teaspoon sea salt
*      1 teaspoon black pepper
*      1½ teaspoon curry powder

Mix together and store until needed. This allows the various ingredients to get to know each other and to become friends so that when they are added to the meat, they really know how to throw a party.

When ready to make Larry Mike's Ole Tacos, add one tablespoon to each pound of ground beef used to make your tacos.

Here’s how I make my Ole Taco Meat:
*      Brown 1 pound of 81/19 lean beef and then drain
*      Once the meat is returned to the stovetop, turn the heat down and add the following:
*      1 tablespoon of Larry Mike’s Ole Taco Seasoning
*      ½ to ¾ cup of chopped fresh tomatoes
*      ½ to ¾ cup of chopped fresh yellow onions
*      ½ to ¾ cup of chopped fresh yellow onions

Let the meat, Old Taco Seasoning, tomatoes, and onions simmer in 1/4 cup of water (adding a drop of lime juice gives it nice tart taste).

Now, here’s where I differ from other taco makers. I don’t use taco shells. I don’t like them. They get soggy and they fall amount, and I’ve choked on a few sharp edges during my taco-eating.

Instead, I use 10” flour tortillas.

For each “taco”, I spread a generous portion of the Ole Taco Meat on the tortilla along with a helping of sour cream, some fresh cut lettuce, chopped jalapeños, and shredded cheese.

I then fold the tortilla once, fold in the edges, and then roll it so it shapes into a nice four to six inch “taco”.

Next, I cook them in one of two ways for that crispy, crunchy taste we have come to associate with a taco:
  • in a 375 degree oven until crispy or
  • in a deep fryer until crispy
I make sure to have homemade guacamole and salsa sauce for the repast (those recipes for another time) and more sour cream for dipping.

I serve with refried beans, real Mexican beer, and/or good tequila.

I know what you’re thinking: that’s not really a taco--that’s a burrito.

Perhaps, but the idea started with me wanting to make tacos like ones I enjoyed at the border, to make a better, more authentic taco because I can’t find one around here.

If I put the Ole Taco Meat in a hard crunchy corn shell, then it would truly be a taco.

Still, I will call my taco creation made with flour tortillas Larry Mike’s Ole Tacos, and you can either eat them or not.


The same is true when I write.

When I read a story I like very much, I want to make that story my own by trying to figure out the ingredients the writer used in his/her story, just as I did with the border tacos.

I experiment, revise, workshop, rewrite, and experiment some more. My family and friends are the guinea pigs.

Soon, I have a tale I like very much, and while it has much of the same successful ingredients as the story that inspired me (and all good and great stories, for that matter), I have added enough of my own personal touches and ingredients--my personality--that my tale has little resemblance to the original and, hopefully, is similar but something new and different.

And while my Dark Fantasy may not perfectly fit the Dark Fantasy motif because I use a different approach or a different style or add different motifs from other genres, I will still call it Dark Fantasy because, to me, that’s what my story is.

I’ve known many writers over the years who have some talent but lacked either the ambition or courage or both to take a successful formula and rework it as their own.

Yes, it’s nice to have rules and archetypes and motifs and standards. It's good to have a well-tested recipe.

The thing of it is though--the thing of it is--it's just one recipe for making delicious tacos or writing a lip-smacking story.

Just ONE.

A good writer, like a good cook, takes the basics and adds his/her own special ingredients so that while similar to those stories and tacos that have come before and will come after, this ONE story or this ONE taco is as unique as it can be and has a distinctive signature so that the reader, or the taster, will exclaim, "Ah, ha! This is one of Larry Mike's creations."

Bon Appétit,

Larry Mike

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