April 3rd, 2012
Sometimes I forget.
I forget birthdays, even of people I completely adore.
I forget my keys, nearly always.
I forget that it will all get done eventually, even when I’m convinced that it won’t.
And I forget the comfort of classic “American” dishes that I enjoyed growing up.
“American” is a funny way to describe some of the dishes that I’m talking about, but it’s how I understood them, through my Greek mother’s eyes. Things like tacos, pan fried hot dogs and stroganoff—original flavor—Rice-A-Roni. This was American food to my mom. She didn’t cook this food often, usually opting for all-natural ingredients prepared in simple Greek ways, but it felt like a treat when she did.
As I learned about food, though, I moved away from my mother’s introductions to American food. They went from seeming earnest to clumsy. And, soon enough, her hard shelled tacos, made entirely with pre-packaged ingredients, and “just add beef!” dinners were a thing of the past.
Last summer, my family and I shared a beach house with another family. On one memorable trip to the supermarket, the other mom, my good friend and partner in meal planning, suggested tacos for dinner.
Tacos?! Hard shell tacos? The kind filled with beef flavored with pre-combined, unnaturally spiked seasoning? The kind of tacos my mom made?! I was taken aback.
I realize it must seem silly to be dumbstruck by the suggestion of tacos for dinner, but I’d never made regular tacos at home. I’d made potato and chorizo tacos and healthy fish tacos. I’d even made traditional carnitas, best served wrapped in corn tortillas, all taco like. But, just, like, ground beef with all the fixins tacos? Americanized, Tex-Mex tacos? I’d forgotten about them. That night at the beach house, watching all of our kids giddily devour tacos, I remembered.
This is the taco seasoning that I came up with to replace the prepackaged kind which comes all mixed with fillers, artificial colors and flavors. It’s simple and delicious, just like most of my mother’s home cooking—the kind she made when she wasn’t practicing being American. Just like that, taco night went from unimaginable to a family tradition. And even more than that, it was a reminder that anything can be made well with whole ingredients. All it takes is a little thought and some simple scratch cooking.
Homemade Taco Seasoning
(Can be shared with kids 6+ mos)
Makes enough to season 1 lb of meat
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix until well combined. Rub on chicken breast or tofu before cooking or sprinkle over ground beef while browning.
*Note: Herbs and spices are safe for even the earliest eaters. In fact, using them in moderation is an excellent way to excite baby’s developing palate.
Quick note: My family prefers soft corn tortillas to the crunchy ones—the boys like to roll their tacos all by themselves. Whether you like soft tortillas or crunchy taco shells, be sure to take a peek at the ingredients list. You’ll be surprised at what you find, especially in the crunchy kind. And might I be so bold as to suggest that you make homemade corn tortillas? Jennie’s recipe is right off of the package, but I want you to look anyway, for the photos. See? Even kiddo can help make these! It’s way easier than you think and then you’ll know exactly what’s in your food on taco night.