Today I’m linking up with the Recipe ReDux to celebrate’s February theme: Taco Tuesday.
This month’s ReDux theme presented a unique challenge for me because, frankly, I hate tacos. I want to like tacos, but it’s kind of like how I want to like camping or swimming in the ocean: While I like certain elements of tacos, they’re just not my thing. Tacos represent to me what I will never be: hip and low maintenance. Great with beer and margaritas.
I’m a champagne lover and a whiskey girl at heart—what can I say? I’d rather be sipping bourbon in a dark bar listening to Tom Waits than tossing back brews on the beach. I sunburn in about two minutes no matter what level of SPF I’m wearing and I hate sand in sneaky places. So there’s that.
One of my first NYC memories involves tacos, sort of. I was 19, and it was the summer between freshman and sophomore year of college. I was commuting into the city from New Jersey for an internship at an entertainment PR firm and taking night classes (screenwriting—this was in a past life). This particular day was hot, and I had been sent on an errand to deliver a garment bag to some actor’s apartment on Great Jones Street.
On my way, I saw this girl walking while eating a Klondike Choco-Taco, not even breaking stride. No melting or dripping ice cream, no dropping crumbs or chunks of shell onto the sidewalk. She seemed so…confident and nonchalant. So New York. I’m ashamed to admit that I went home that night and tried on my own shorts-and-boots combo, and I just looked, well, really f***Ing stupid.
But that’s not why I hate tacos—that’s just an embarrassing story I remembered while writing this.
The real reason I hate tacos is that tacos make me think of dating in New York City, which, especially in my twenties, involved a lot of eating tacos with boys I met online. So of course, this makes me think of awkward small talk and terrible kisses and clammy palms and stories I can’t believe are in my own little book of WTF.
Then there’s Lobster Taco Guy, who tried to hold my hand while I was eating said lobster taco. He was super-presumptuous about several things and had a sleek-creepy voice and he kept touching the small of my back when I swatted him away. I hate to be touched while I’m eating.
Tacos me think of a night in Brooklyn when I ate Tacos al Pastor with a guy who would tell me the next morning he just couldn’t be in a relationship (appreciate the honesty, but….). Then that makes me think of how I tried to get over it by finding another Brooklyn guy, and a summer spent drinking and dancing until hours I’m just not wired to stay awake until anymore. Lots of tacos. We had fun, but he was really just looking for a nice girl to go camping with. Not me. I’m sure it didn’t help that I didn’t want to go in the water that time we took the LIRR to the beach. You win some, you lose some.
Tacos also make me think of getting my heart broken (totally my own fault, probably) at 29. Because quite a few people asked me how this story really ended), I’ll spill: he came back—to New York, that is. It was just for a few days, but I totally let my guard down and let myself be happy sharing the same space (etc, etc) again. I also happened to be off both clinical jobs that week, so got to enjoy some downtime catching up with him. Or whatever the kids call it these days. As one epic afternoon wandering New York became evening, we found our way into a taco place with good lighting and cheap cava. Later, worn filter-free by some 20,000 steps (and cava) I said some things I probably shouldn’t have risked, but at first, it seemed okay after all. Two days later, though, he said, “Actually, I can’t,” and skulked back to California.
Soooo…tacos also make me think of calling my mom and saying, “False alarm—I’m single again,” and packing up the car and the dog for a girls’ weekend and of swearing off romantic risk-taking for a while.
I’ve tried to make happier associations with tacos by digging back to my childhood and the Old El Paso Taco Kits we had a few times a month for dinner (always with ground turkey and that distinctive spice packet), but then I think of words like “convenient” and “cheap” and “crowd-pleaser” and “Mom and Dad are working late,” and it’s just, like, I give up.
So yeah. Me and tacos. Where other people taste “FUN!” I taste something a little more “Diamonds and Rust.” I love many many of the flavors and foods in tacos, but I’ve given myself permission to put them on the short list of things I just don’t like. If I don’t want to eat tacos, I don’t have to.
And life is good. The second you give yourself permission to not do something that doesn’t feel authentic to you (like eating tacos or online dating), the rest of you stops fighting and your shoulders ease up and you can be more present in your everyday instead of choking on “this doesn’t feel good.” It barely occurs to you question whether you need that not-quite-right thing anyway because you’re just enjoying what’s around you and in front of you—on your actual plate and on the symbolic plate that is your life.
That said, I know that Taco Tuesday can be an awesome meal planning tool for busy families—it certainly was when I was a kid, and it makes Tuesday night’s a no-brainer for many of my clients. I’ve worked with some people, though, who find Taco Tuesday stressful for other reasons:
- OMG taco shells are carbs!
- I’m Paleo but I love tacos. What do I do?
- Sour cream and cheese = no bueno for lactose intolerance and vegan diets
- Guacamole = fat. Good fat but scary because calories.
- Differences in preference. Aka one person wants vegetarian and someone else wants beef and someone else wants turkey and OMG, how do I please everyone!?
- What the hell is in that taco seasoning packet anyway?
- Salsa = holy preservatives, Batman!
As it turns out, things like spicy cooked ground turkey or beans or fish and salsa and avocado all taste wonderful on top of salad, though, which makes taco salad my go-to Taco Tuesday recommendation for people who hate tacos. In the “weird is good” category, I also would recommend this Taco-Inspired Oatmeal.
Whether you’re a taco-lover or not, I think you’ll dig this Cauliflower Rice Taco Bowl next Taco Tuesday. Enjoy!
Cauliflower Rice Taco Bowl
- One head of cauliflower, cut into florets (or one 10-ounce packed riced cauliflower)
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil or other neutral oil
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 lb ground chicken cooked
- 1 16-ounce can black beans (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon each: chili powder, cumin, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, red chili flakes
- 5 ounces baby kale or other leafy greens
- Plain Greek yogurt
- Pickled red onion
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Pulse cauliflower in a food processor until it looks like rice.
- Heat one tablespoon oil in a large skillet. Add riced cauliflower. Cook until slightly soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
- Heat remaining tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Add diced garlic and cook for another minute, until fragrant.
- Add ground chicken and spices. Cook, stirring to break up pieces and ensure even cooking, until chicken is browned. Let aside on a paper towel-lined plate.
- If using beans, heat on the stovetop or microwave.
- Steam greens or zap in the microwave to soften.
- Divide cooked greens, cauliflower rice, beans (if using), and chicken between four bowls. Top with guacamole, salsa, plain Greek yogurt, or any other toppings you like on your taco.
Do you like tacos? Are there any foods you avoid because they bum you out?
The Recipe ReDux is a monthly recipe challenge founded by registered dietitians that aims to inspire the food lover in every healthy eater and inspire the healthy eater in every food lover.
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