I made chicken tacos for Sunday afternoon’s early supper. I’ve been making tacos in my kitchen for more than 20 years and the familiar steps of simmering the chicken, grating the cheese, chopping and stirring together the salsa, and preparing the refritos and rice is something I now cook entirely from memory.
As I was pulling Sunday’s supper together, I started to think about all the ways that tacos have featured in my life. Growing up, it was my favorite supper. It was always the best school lunch as well. In the fourth grade, when our brand new house caught on fire, it was the oil my mom was heating to fry taco shells that was to blame. Tacos were the last homemade supper my mother made before I moved away to college. When I moved from California to Tennessee, standing in the bread aisle looking for tortillas showed me just how far from home I had travelled. Turns out that in the rest of America, tortillas aren’t in such high demand, so they stay in the refrigerated section. Over the years that I have been away from California, I've turned looking for authentic Mexican ingredients into a high art.
These days, many of my favorite Mexican food ingredients are available locally, thanks to New Jersey’s diversity. There's a supply of fresh cilantro and loads of chiles in the produce section; tortillas can be found with the rest of the Mexican ingredients and aren't in a refrigerated case. And homemade tacos are still my favorite meal; they still taste like home.