When anyone asks me for an example of the culinary stars being perfectly aligned I refer them to 2016, when National Taco Day (which occurs every year on October 4) fell on a Tuesday. Countless families hold regular meals consisting solely of tacos on what have become known as Taco Tuesdays. With strong preferences for Mexican food in our family, however, sometimes one Tuesday a week isn’t enough. The spirit of Taco Tuesday gets appointed to other days of the week, when cravings arise on Margarita Mondays, Fiesta Fridays, or Soft Taco Saturdays. Another reason we rejig our calendars for Mexican food is that Jonah, the youngest member and pickiest eater in our family, has never shied away from tacos, nachos, quesadillas, or burritos. Having them for dinner often is a path of least resistance. Even when our pickiest eater can be in the mood for Mexican at the drop of a hat, National Taco Day colliding with Taco Tuesday was a meal made in heaven.
That Tuesday I got home from work to find my wife had ground beef browning on the stove. She asked me to take over watching the meat, while she chopped tomatoes, lettuce, and avocados. The aroma of spices coming from the pan was a good sign that tacos would be extra delicious on this fortuitous day for Mexican food, but as I looked down at the meat, I sensed trouble and was struck by a terrible realization.
“Are you insane?” I whispered to my wife, pointing frantically in the pan where I had spied tiny shreds of carrot and flecks of spinach amongst the ground beef. “Are you trying to ruin Taco Tuesday? It is one of the few things left that Jonah willingly eats. If he sees veggies in his tacos, it will be game over. We will lose Taco Tuesday. And you decide to risk it all on National Taco Day?”
“I hide veggies in our spaghetti sauce and that’s never been a problem,” my wife defended herself, “so I thought I would try it with tacos.”
I knew it was a good idea in theory, but Jonah’s ability to detect foods he does not like was at such a high level that we walked a fine line in getting him to ingest any nutrition from fruits and vegetables. I stirred the meat a bit, realizing it would turn darker brown the longer it cooked. It was highly unlikely Jonah would notice a difference in flavour if there were carrots and spinach mixed into his tacos, but if he spied one flash of orange or green, he would call it quits on the meal. I considered burning the meat to a charred blackness, obliterating any chance of him seeing a colour that did not resemble meat. But that could backfire on me as well, since he has a sensitivity to food that he detects to be the least bit overdone. My only hope was to cook the meat perfectly to hide the vegetables.
With the table set with green guacamole and lettuce, red tomatoes and salsa, orange cheese, and white sour cream, I nervously brought out very dark brown ground beef.
As expected from our vegetable-eschewing son, he used only beef and cheese, snubbing the other fresh toppings. The visual test was passed, as he scooped some meat into his taco shell. Crunching down on his taco, he declared, “This taco meat is so tasty.”
Crisis averted. I was confident that Taco Tuesday had not lost its lustre and my wife was content that our picky eater was consuming a helping of vegetables. It really was a Mexican food miracle. And who knows, with Cinco de Mayo — an even more festive reason to celebrate Mexican food — falling on a Tuesday in 2020, maybe there is hope that Jonah will take the next step and put fresh veggies on his tacos.