Out of this world quotes from Planet Taco

“While maize and beans alone lack vital amino acids, cooking them together complements the value of their proteins as well as their tastes. The invention of ceramic vessels was therefore important to the development of the sedentary, agrarian Olmec society in the absence of protein from domesticated animals. A final nutritional defect of maize is the shortage of usable niacin, a vitamin needed to prevent the disease pellegra, which is characterized by skin rash, intestinal problems, insanity, and death. Maize could not become the dietary staple for dense urban populations until cooks discovered the nixtamal process in which limestone or wood ash freed the chemically bound vitamin. However nutritionally sound, the recipe for tortillas required enormous physical labor from women. Arguably, they worked as hard grinding corn on the metate as did the men they fed who constructed the physical monuments of Teotihuacán, the pyramids of the Sun and the Moon.” (Pilcher 26, 27)

“A sense of authenticity, based on historic traditions of foods tied to particular locations, can be welcomed refuge from the threat of global homogenization. Nevertheless, efoorts to trace a genealogy for a national cuisine confront basic historical problems, starting with the fact the pre-Hispanic peoples were not “Mexican.”” (Pilcher 21)


Works Cited

Pilcher, Jeffrey M.. Planet Taco. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

 

Monopoly in Immokalee

While I was on Facebook the other day, I found this political video about what Bernie Sanders has done for the families in Imokalee, Florida. I do not share this with the intentions of making any sort of political statement on here. I just realized Professor Alvarez had posted something about the Immokalee workers targeting Wendy’s, which you can read here!

I think this video really helps show just exactly what the workers in Immokalee are going through and rather than dehumanizing people, it shows that these ARE people too that are really struggling. It gives them a voice to be heard and has a powerful message. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is really and it is still happening.

La Paleteria with My Pals

The next stop: La Michoacán de Lexington –La Paletería y Nievería! That’s every ice cream lover’s dream — a popsicle and ice cream shop in English!

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La Michoacan in all its glory!

This little place is located right next to Gran Tako, famous in class for the cutting of the El Pastor outside, the Friday night karaoke where one man walks around and hogs the mic, and incredible food. All decked out in pink, this place was a good reason to freak out!

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Al pastor at Gran Tako, right outside La Michoacan!

If there’s one thing I love, it would be fresh fruit and vegetables. Honestly.. That’s no lie. I am that girl that doesn’t have to be reminded to “eat her veggies” because she’d rather be eating some carrots and cucumber instead of a double fudge brownie and cupcakes doused in blue icing that makes your entire mouth lose any shade of pink. Don’t judge; I am who I am. All that to say, I still can still inhale a cupcake in one second, but my palate just seems to prefer fruits and veggies. Weird, eh?

It would be an immense understatement to say that I was exhilarated to get a Mexican popsicle made out of FRESH FRUIT. GAH. I could cry. It’s three of my favorite things in one: popsicles, Mexico, and fresh fruit.

When I walked into this place, I was a little kid in a candy store. I was apalled by all of the options. All of the color drew me in. There was so much. There was ice cream, fruity drinks, milk-based popsicle, water-based popsicles, snacks, EVERYTHING. This was the mothership of them all.

I just kept saying over and over and over again to Jenna, “I’m literally going to come here every.single.day this summer!!! Seriously!! This place is incredible!!!” For someone only knowing me less than a semester, she handled my crazy way too well. Not only could she handle it, she was on my level of crazy and excitement too. We were freaking out together and absolutely could not believe the sight before us.

We paced up and down the tiny aisle of windows of ice cream trying to make a decision. Every person in the class seemed dumb-founded as if their faces were saying, “Where do I even begin?!”

I had trouble making up my mind, as usual. I couldn’t even come close to narrowing it down. I kept going back and forth between mango or watermelon. I fixed my eyes on the watermelon; that was the one. The man handed it to me and despite the fact that there was a frozen bar in my hand, I was internally melting. I couldn’t wait to try it.

Then, suddenly, as my eyes shifted across the menu full of flavors, I saw it..
CUCUMBER WITH CHILE. What?!?! I knew I wanted to try it.

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I couldn’t believe it — a cucumber (pepino) flavored popsicle?!

“You love cucumbers, Casey. You should trade it in. But.. but.. there’s chile powder on it.. It could be too spicy! Ugh, what to do, what to do,” I thought. I traded the watermelon in for the cucumber. I peeled the plastic wrap off and took a taste.

Now remember, I love vegetables, especially cucumbers. But this.. this was something from the underworld. There was nothing about this popsicle that settled well with me. What was I thinking? A cucumber popsicle?! It tasted salty. No popsicle was ever meant to taste salty. I was disappointed. Everyone seemed to be loving theirs. I knew I should have gotten a fruity one.

Once I had had too much, I threw it out. I felt bad because I really wanted to like it, but I just couldn’t.  I knew I wanted one that I enjoyed, so I decided to buy a different one. This time it was strawberries and cream. The man working seemed confused when I asked him for a second, as if he had been keeping track of my cucumber popsicle and it had magically disappeared, which it

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My second popsicle — strawberries & cream! YUM!

basically had.

I waited anxiously for approval of my debit card so I could eat the popsicle in all of its fullness, but waiting seemed like a million years.

For the second time I peeled the plastic wrap away and didn’t even look back. That popsicle was the smallest piece of creamy, fruity, smooth perfection I had ever met. I am at a loss of words describing the emotions that I experienced. We headed out to the van since the majority of my classmates were finished. But since I went back for “seconds”, I finished in the van. I could get over the fact that it tasted like a strawberry milkshake on a stick. I contemplated buying 10 and storing them in my freezer at home, but realized they would most likely melt on the bus ride back.

I wiped my face while giggling at trying to strategically finish the popsicle without it landing on the floor of the bus. Unfortunately, I didn’t succeed, but, fortunately, I made it onto the napkin, so no messes were made. The only messes that were made were the napkin looking like a someone had just cleaned up Pepto Bismol and my emotions from leaving a place that I gave a part of my heart to.

Taco-tasting & Town-touring

Okay, okay, more like Birria tasing!

Saturday was full of fun adventures on our “Taco Tour” for class! The  first stop was Birrieria Jalisco and then La Michoacan de Lexington: Nieveria y Paleteria.

After meeting on campus, climbing into a creepy white van, and getting stuck in a little bit of traffic, we finally made it to the much-anticipated Birreria Jalisco. Never have I ever seen nor heard of this place. Matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been near it.. Besides that one time I went to the Tae-Kwon-Do place next door with a friend on bring-a-friend-for-free day *digs forehead into hands out of embarrassment* Nonetheless, I sure am glad I really know about it now!

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The plaza the Birrieria Jalisco is in and an excited Jenna

Entering the restaurant, we were greeted by many confusing looks by customers that read “What are all these people doing here?” or “Where’d you all come from?”, but never in a rejection-kind-of way. At least I felt more welcomed than ever.

The bright, creamsicle orange walls adorned with fun, yard-sale-find looking trinkets

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The conveyor belt of  kitchen counter and orange walls 

gave me nostalgia, reminding me of my parents yellow-orange kitchen back home and my mom’s home-style cooking. If anything, it made me feel at home and that much hungrier. I was ready. Too ready.

My friend Jenna and I stood in awe as they made tortillas from the masa we pointed out, sitting in a small metal tub on the counter. “Tengo una pregunta,” I said, telling her I had a question regarding whether the tub did indeed contain masa. She affirmed and a sense of pride and relief rushed through me for two reasons: one, being able to apply and see something I had learned about in class, and two, using my first lick of Spanish with the employees and being able to get those initial “am I going to say this wrong?” nerves out of my system.

Taking it all in, we found the most prized possession: the Jarritos collection. “Wow, this place has so many flavors compared to Local Taco. YES!” I verbalized my thoughts. I insisted Jenna get a pineapple or “piña ” flavored one, almost in a micro-managing way because of my unbridled obsession.

In the corner of the restaurant, we occupied the back two tables, marking our territory by shoving some tables together so we could eat like a family — because we, without a doubt, are a family. We’re a Taco Lit family. We looked over the menu anxiously.

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Birrieria Jalisco’s menu!

As much as I wanted to stay under my security blanket of tacos, I knew I had to try the birria, considering how much we had talked about it in class. The question was, though, do I get the birria made with goat (called “chivo” on the menu) or made with beef (called “res” on the menu)? Since I have had beef before, I decided to go out on a limb and try goat for the first time. And may I just say, it was the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time, as the kids like to call it these days — haha!)

I’ll be honest, when the mesera brought out the huge bowl of it, I was skeptical of the large chunks of meat and how I was even going to take a bite. I searched for a tenedor to maybe help me saw the chunks in half, but there wasn’t one to be found in the rolled up silverware — only spoons and forks. I rolled with the punches and rolled up my sleeves.

The first bite was interesting. I was surprised that it wasn’t spicy due to the fact that everything that people say isn’t spicy at all usually is too much for me to consume. But it truly wasn’t. This place was already fitting to my liking and it was just the first bite!

It took me a while to get over the fact that I was eating a goat, especially as I saw images of a cute baby goat from a video I saw just the day before pop up in my head. Quickly, I tried to be distracted to erase the sadness that could possibly overtake me if I got carried away. I’m not a vegetarian by any means, but every once in a while, I think about those things and die a little inside.

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Birria en jugo de chivo — beautiful isn’t it?

Bite after bite, I found myself devouring this incredible stew-like dish, every once in a while uncomfortably picking out pieces of bone to ensure I don’t swallow those as well. Some might think this is hazardous,

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All smiles for fresh tortillas!

but I think it allowed the goat meat to be the perfect consistency — tender and falling-off-the-bone. I couldn’t get enough.
Slowly but surely, the mesera came out periodically to hand out what looked like a packet of fre
sh tortillas to each student. Jenna, Rachel, and I gawked at the tortillas, overwhelmed that each of us got a pack of 4, still hot and freshly made tortillas wrapped in aluminum foil to take home.

 

And it was back to the bus we went, into the dreary, rainy day. It was easily a metaphor for how I felt leaving Birrieria Jalisco — sad and pitiful. Although the day didn’t reflect it, I couldn’t have picked better soup-eating weather. It was off to get some popsicles next, so we said our goodbyes, but I knew this wouldn’t be the last time I went there. I twould just be the beginning.

A Grand Experience at Gran Tako

After taking a much-needed trip to Indianapolis, Indiana to visit a friend that recently moved there, I was able to finally try Gran Tako on my way back with my friends Mayra and Lupe. Mayra and Lupe are students at Bryan Station High School that I had the privilege of meeting through a Christian ministry that I volunteer with, called Young Life. Being a Spanish major, any chance I get to take part in Hispanic culture or to speak Spanish, I jump on it. Mayra and Lupe, both being Mexican, growing up in Aguascalientes and Chiapas, help this gringa to really understand and be a part of the Hispanic community. Any questions I have about food, mannerisms, translations of Spanish words, or culture, these girls always come in clutch. We have a very unique friendship. I fortunately got to meet them while helping drive high school students to a retreat in Louisville. That was two years ago. Now, fast forward to this month, we’re spending a weekend visiting my best friend and their old Young Life leader, Emily. After painting walls until 3 in the morning, then waking up 6 hours later to move furniture into Emily’s new house, we grew up quite the appetite.

We decided that we would make a quick stop at McDonald’s for the 3 hour trek back to Lexington, but all knew we would still be hungry once we got back.

“Casey, let’s get tacos when we get back!!” Mayra exclaimed through the echoes of Justin Bieber in the car.

“HECK YES!!!” I shouted, overly excited that I finally had the opportunity to go with these girls. I had been anticipating going to Gran Tako for a while since hearing about it in class, and these girls affirmed all the rave about it for me. Mayra would send me snapchats everyday of how she was there, in which would cause me to send back a jealous selfie asking when we could all go together.

LOW AND BEHOLD, THAT DAY FINALLY CAME. I finally got the gran experiencia of Gran Tako. Although this Gran Tako isn’t the same one that we talked about in class (the one on Alexandria Drive), it was a sister restaurant to it, being on East New Circle Road. Same idea. Close enough, right?!

Once we pulled in the parking lot, I recognized the plaza it was in. Then, I saw it. The chunk of meat gouged on a metal rod, being cooked and cut by an employee just outside the door. That’s al pastor for ya. Exactly how we had seen it on the video of the other Gran Tako.

Feeling antsy, I began walking up to the counter thinking that I ordered there, until I was embarrassingly pulled on the arm by Mayra directing me to a table and laughing at me. Between the humidity in the air in the restaurant from the steam and the embarrassment of not knowing what to do in this new situation, I couldn’t tell which I was sweating from. Honestly, it was probably both.

Tacos were the obvious order. I just had to have them. I needed them. And a Piña Jarritos, of course.

Looking at the menu, contemplating whether or not I should get something different, I was overcome with hunger and excitement, thinking, “Man, I want more Latino friends.” I love getting to use my Spanish at Mexican restaurants (or anywhere really!), and getting to use it with friend who ALSO speak the language is great. Rather than ordering and your friends snickering at you in the process like you’re embarrassing them because you’re the only person at the table that speaks Spanish, it actually feels good to instead, finish ordering and your friends say “Good job, Casey!!” as they proceed to also order in Spanish. It’s nice having friends that know a lot about what you’re studying too, so you get to pick their brains on how the food you’re eating is made. THE BEST, I tell you!

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Lupe and I so excited to eat some tacos!!

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Really digging in!

Tacos de carne asada were my go-to. It came with avacado, onions, cilantro, radishes, and lime. Wrapped in fresh corn tortillas, of course, boy, oh, boy, were these taco incredible!

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Tacos de carne asada!

I had two, but decided to order more because, as I said, we grew up quite the appetite. Haha! Everyone was apparently in the mood for tacos because we all got the same thing. Avacados are one of most-prized greens, so I was may or may not have completely flipped out when my tacos came because they came on top.

Less than 15 minutes later, we were finished. We crushed those tacos. It looked like a crime scene happened. With full bellies, we finally headed to the front counter, basically waddling like pregnant penguins we were so full, where, we paid for our food. Completely and utterly satisfied, we three agreed that we had to come back again together. It was a phenomenal trip to Gran Tako.