Family Tradition


So it’s obviously been well documented that I was pretty much a Daddy’s girl. My Dad and I were extremely close and I’ll cherish the almost 40 years we had together. Those last few years were pretty painful, but I’m glad I was there. For him as much as myself, really. Few regrets.

Anyway, in the two years since his death I reminisce on occasion and things hit me here and there. Things he’d say, for instance. Expressions that made no sense, ie; “shit and carry six”. No idea. Things he would eat. I’m still not completely sure what “shit on a shingle” is, but he loved it. He drank Lord Calvert in the handle bottle, and in his later years, Jack Daniel’s. You would not catch my Father trying anything organic. Steak and potatoes, dammit. Pancakes and sausage for breakfast. Snack? What’s that? That’s a Hershey bar. Bless ‘im.
No surprise there. He was a heavy drinking crusty ex-marine. Oh, and he was Irish.
The one thing that stands out oddly from my childhood is his affinity for tacos. Across the board he was not a fan of any ethnic cuisine. However, for some reason, tacos became his thing. Not just eating them…creating them. My Mother did most of the cooking in our home but when Dad decided it was “taco night”, it was GAME ON.
There was no going to Taco Bell. There was no Ortega kit that he would purchase. He rolled old skool. And by that, I mean he bought soft corn tortillas and actually put them in a oil filled skillet. He’d transfer them to paper towels and dab the excess oil off of the tortillas. He bought fresh lettuce, tomatoes, black olives and onions. Back then (I swear this is true) you could not buy a bag of grated cheddar cheese or the mexican “mix” from Kraft. You bought a block of cheese and you grated it your damn self. The cheese would all clog up in the grates and you’d almost skin your fingers but it was the freshest orangey ribbons of cheese you’d ever tasted. He’d couple that with sour cream, taco sauce (no “salsa” dammit) and make a taco bar of sorts. He’d dish out all these fresh ingredients into little white crocks and center them on our dining room table. He’d saute the ground beef and season it slowly, letting it simmer. The whole house smelled heavenly.
We’d descend on the kitchen and watch him prepare the feast. Some of the fondest memories I have are the sleepovers my girlfriends would have at my house and my Dad would prepare tacos and put on quite the show. My friends were delighted to see a man in the kitchen (it was the 70’s after all) and my Dad loved the spotlight. He’d take “orders” and we’d create mix after tasty mix of different taco combos. Laughter would abound, sauce would drip down chins and everyone made a mess but no one cared. Now I know Dad was imbibing his Lord Calvert/7Up mix during his tenure as Chef, but there was no doubting the joy he took in preparing his specialty meal. It wasn’t just having dinner, it was an experience.
Well, in the last ten or twenty years, I’ve not had cause for a taco night. Living alone you really don’t go to that kind of trouble for just yourself. I’ve made a taco salad here and there, but never really went full metal jacket on the preparation and made it an event. Half the fun is sharing the experience. Enjoying a meal with others.
Fast forward to current day. I decided awhile back to have a “taco night” with Johnny and our daughters. Ella, our three year old would have no part, I knew, but Lily is a fantastic eater and she was thrilled with the concept.
I HAD NO IDEA.
I’m pleased to say that Taco Night is a hit in our household. Both girls want to help in the preparation and it’s become a family affair. We had a sleepover a couple of weeks ago and Lily had asked if we could have “Jenny’s taco’s” as the meal. YOU BETCHA. So there I am in the kitchen…chopping, sorting, putting things in little dishes and making a taco bar of our own. Do I use fresh corn tortillas? No. Mission flour tortillas work just fine. Do I buy the Ortega kit? Absolutely. I use ground turkey instead of beef (sorry Dad) but still use mostly the same ingredients. And they are delicious.
So, we all sit together at the table as a family and eat tacos. Sauce runs down chins and laughter abounds. There are second helpings and sometimes thirds. It’s at least a bi-monthly occurrence and I couldn’t be more pleased. Part of becoming a family is starting traditions and finding out what works and what makes your family unique. Taco night is by far a unique or worldly concept, but it’s something that my new little family quite enjoys, and it’s become our silly little thing.
Last night Lily called from her Mommy’s house and I asked Johnny what was the reason for the call. She is in third grade and in two weeks they are having tacos for lunch at her school. She wanted to know if I could come and eat lunch with her at school on taco day.
I don’t know who was happier…me, or my Dad.*
* Dad. Trust me on the ground turkey thing. It’s healthier and you cannot taste the difference, I promise you. NO, that is not a bunch of happy horseshit. I am not lying. No, I would never mix Jack Daniel’s with Sprite, that’s just wrong but you have to trust me with the turkey. I love you. Thanks.

7 thoughts on “Family Tradition

  1. Daisy says:

    you just made me smile…and now I'm hungryI need a good Jenny O taco/nighttalk to you soon

  2. Anonymous says:

    Love the story. We have taco bar when the whole family is in town, but our favorite meat is shredded chicken. I do fix beef for my FIL though. 🙂 It is actually my go-to meal anymore when I have a large crowd. It's easier than anything else I make. 🙂

  3. Kym says:

    Incredibly touching post. I loved it.

  4. Great post Jenny! I love it and I do love a good taco night ;)-julia

  5. Taco night is the best! Easy to do. And everyone gets it the way they like it. I'm glad your girls love it as much as you do. They'll have so many fond memories thanks to all the taco goodness.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful post Jen!! Wonderfully written!My dad used to eat "shit on a shingle" too – must be some WWII thing they got in the armed forces… One of my dad's favorite things to do first thing in the morning was "Shit, Shower, and Shave". He called it his "3 S's"…and when he said it, we knew what he meant, and we got the HELL out of his way!N

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