El Fenix, scene of the adventure.


The Puffy Taco Adventure

You are, of course, aware that I eat Mexican food whenever possible in an attempt to secure strong relations with our amigos to the south, being politically minded to such an extent as to make it a lifestyle. And when one is doing one's best to ingratiate one's self to one's international neighbors by way of one's diet (which is a more cumbersome way of saying what I just said in the previous sentence), one must make all effort to eat one's choice of ethnic food as if one is aware of the proper way in which one is to eat it. This is not always easy.

I was recently hanging out in a Mexican restaurant down in Dallas and dining on a cheese enchilada topped with chili con carne (standard issue) and what this particular establishment labeled a "puffy taco." Well, I had never eaten a puffy taco before, and upon its arrival continued for several minutes in a state of never having eaten a puffy taco. The appearance of the model under consideration was appetizing enough, but the knowledge of how to proceed totally escaped my notice.

Tacos are, as a species, fairly easy to navigate from the wide open seas into the harbor. And if you think by the sudden shift to seagoing metaphors that I am fond of fish tacos, wipe that assumption completely out of your mind. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Not that I loathe fish tacos, because I've actually never tasted one. But the thought of eating a fish taco is never entertained in my realm. It's not what I consider a proper application of seafood. Now, I will say that I have spent a number of delightful evenings at this joint in Enid which I call the Dead Fish Mexican Restaurant, not remembering the actual name of the place. There they serve almost exclusively Mexican seafood, presumably like that eaten along the coastal regions of Mexico. Most of the dishes present a genuine dead fish, sunny side up, with rice and salad around its edges. This, though unnerving to some patrons, seems to me an acceptable arrangement of seafood in the context of a Mexican restaurant, eyeballs included. But to dice up a dead fish and stick it in a taco shell with the usual assortment of cheese and lettuce and stuff just doesn't seem all-American.

But back to the navigational properties of the average taco. The basic design seems intuitive. An Alaskan Eskimo venturing south for the first time would probably figure out in short order how to eat one, provided he first removed his puffy mittens. However, this puffy taco to which I made reference, presented an immediate challenge, even to one who has lived his life in Oklahoma, which is next to Texas, which is next to Mexico, and who has made it a practice for many years to eat tacos on a regular basis. I have already referred to one such occasion in an earlier essay. This so called puffy taco resembled a small bowl of soup, with the bowl being the taco shell and the soup being the various ingredients one ordinarily finds in a taco. The one difference however, was that the lettuce atop the ingredients inside the taco formed a distinctive dome ascending to the heavens, which is something I've never noticed in a bowl of soup.

My immediate reaction to the sight was that this puffy taco required the use of some new form of eating utensil that has yet to be developed. The idea of eating such a taco with the bare hands, the way Mexicans, Texans, Oklahomans, and Eskimos have been doing for centuries, was out of the question, and any member of the standard five-piece place setting was simply not up to the task. I could see the thing scooting all over the place with the first insertion of the fork, and that is what ultimately occurred once I reached the conclusion that I was going to have to resort to old fashion methods. What this situation demanded was a puffy taco tool of exacting qualifications - one which would hold the puffy taco down on the plate (you know how slippery these things can be when undue force is exerted at the wrong angle) while simultaneously extracting a portion of the exterior shell and a measured amount of internal organisms, and then placing it carefully on a fork or spoon or some such device as is commonly accepted in our circles.

I envision a machine all full up with tension rods, actuators, camshafts, and spigots. The only problem I can foresee is the cost of such an apparatus. What with eco-friendly hydraulics, food-safe lubrication, and a sophisticated yet stupid-proof digital user interface, I fear the feasibility of the project may postpone its introduction for another couple of decades.

So, despite my interest in experiencing new and untested foodstuffs of every ethnic origin, in the meantime, I plan on altogether avoiding puffy tacos and sticking to the time honored edibles that a man can get his hands on without the need for hardware of any sort - stuff like traditional tacos, chips and salsa, guacamole, sour cream, rice, and beans. Well, actually I don't care much for beans.


Note: The author has, over the ensuing years, eaten and enjoyed a number of tasty fish tacos. Most notably, there was this place in San Francisco in which 12 or 13 participants in a workshop at the Exploratorium, the author included, were crammed up around a table for four sitting smack diddle in the middle of a sidewalk on a busy street that sloped, like all streets do in San Francisco, at about 64 degrees relative to 90. Further, the temperatures had long since plummeted below 64 degrees F as night fell, and none of the Okies present had thought to pack a jacket. Further, every 64th pedestrian making use of the sidewalk (about 3 per minute that is) was a dear friend of our host and consequently had to stop and chat, causing our host to have to get up from his plate of fish tacos, scrape his chair across the sidewalk so that it blocked the remaining six inches of traversable space, and have long, heartfelt conversations. It was an experience forever seared into the author's memory, and the fish tacos were quite good despite the volatility of the setting.

© 2015 Dane Tate