18 December 2018

Tacos are like ogres: they're complicated (étude or essay: what's the diff?)

UPDATE 28.xii.18: Recipe links added at the end.

Dear Colleague,

It has been too long since we've had a discussion about food and music. The circumstances behind the hiatus are not important; it will suffice to say that I have been thinking about many posts and the connections between food and my own music practice for the past few years. I have recently been contracted to write a monograph on American music history which has helped in rededicating myself to the practice of music, as well as redefine what I want to work on as a scholar-performer. 

In an earlier post about the multi-ethnic identity of tacos I mentioned that a post about tacos would be forthcoming. Consider this that post. After reading Gustavo Arellano's book, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America, I now have a greater awareness of the backstory behind each and every taco I make or eat. This backstory includes recognizing the difference between Mexican, Tex-Mex, and New Mexican styles of food.

Speaking of awareness, no matter how many times you do something a benefit can be had from revisiting the history and processes that got you to where you are now. I've been making tacos for decades, reading about and cooking Mexican food for the same amount of time, and in the past ten years or so have been seriously working on improving not just my Mexican food chops but my culinary skills in general. Thus, after my cooking of chicken improved immensely after receiving a Craftsy course on cooking chicken from my wife (and believe me, up to that point I had cooked a LOT of chicken), I was excited when she brought home The Best Mexican Recipes: Kitchen Tested Recipes that put the Real Flavors of Mexico within Reach  from America's Test Kitchen. America's Test Kitchen does exactly that: test things in the kitchen until they are as efficient as they can be. Techniques refined, ingredients measured, and temperatures and cooking times confirmed and now laid out in a clean format with a list of ingredients and clear procedures that make each recipe accessible even for the novice home cook. 

So what did I do? Made more Mexican food, used different ingredients for different types of tacos (based, in part, from reading Mr. Arrellano's book which discusses, among many things, regional differences), and expanded my repertoire to include tortas and molletes. For these latter two gustatory pleasures I dragged a cookbook off the shelf that I had not used since the day bought it, Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales: Flavors from the Griddles, Pots, and Streetside Kitchens of Mexico, by Roberto Santibañez. Now, with refined skills and more knowledge, I merely had to look at the dish and the basic ingredients and I could make my own versions of a torta and mollete. And, well, no excursion into the realm of binge-eating Mexican food would be complete, at least for me, without cranking out some enchiladas. Not just any enchiladas. I used my special, private stock of Chimayo chile powder (medium; sun dried) to make the sauce, thus combining Mexican and New Mexican cuisine in one dish. If you say, "So what, they are just chile peppers?" then we have to have a serious conversation about attention to detail, subtle differences in taste, texture, heat, and context.  

Where does music fit in here? If you have been practicing similar exercises for years, or have moved away from technical work and have been just practicing repertoire (even using a deliberate practice), then you could likely benefit from reconsidering the processes and techniques that got you to this point in your musical endeavors. I have reevaluated my deliberate practice techniques, the etudes, caprices, scales, and specific pieces that present particular challenges and have re-engaged myself with particular components that I had set aside or had not played for a while. The musical equivalent of putting something on the top shelf where a step stool or stepladder is required to get the item off the shelf and use in a recipe.

Now that my practice has taken those ingredients off of the top shelf and put them back into the regularly-used items, I am refreshed, reinvigorated, revitalized, and other words that start with "re-" in my playing of music. In the words of the legendary Joe Bob Briggs, "check it out."

I remain, 

UPDATE 28.xii.18
After posting this I received some feedback from friends and family who wanted some of my recipes. I can't do that because I just wing it every time I make tacos. Or enchiladas. Or tortas. Or mollettes. However, here are some links to different types of tacos. Beef, pork, fish, and vegetarian/vegan options. I chose them because of how they look on my computer screen, the pictures, one even has a video, and the apparent ease in following the recipe. Some of them come with back stories, others just talk about how to make tacos. Enjoy!

Carne asada tacos
Fish tacos
Chicken tacos
Salmon tacos
More fish tacos
Carnitas tacos
More carnitas tacos
Vegan mushroom tacos
Mushroom, corn, poblano tacos
More mushroom tacos
And even more mushroom tacos (OK, so I like mushrooms)

1 comment:

Robin Harwick said...

Music and tacos, what could be better?