There’s something about winter that draws my mind to summertime memories. I remember family dinners at my grandma’s house. Grandma would be busy cooking inside while we kids played in the big backyard. Outside were trees to climb and grapevines heavy with sweet, purple grapes.
Our favorite meal was Grandma’s grease tacos. Of course, she didn’t call them that, but we did.
She’d cook up dozens of them to make sure there were plenty to go around. I may have been skinny, but that didn’t mean I didn’t have an appetite. I never ate less than half a dozen.
My uncle (who was only three years older than I), my sister, and I used to have contests to see who could eat the most. Eddie usually won, of course, but Cari and I were never that far behind. Once, when we were teenagers, I beat him. I don’t even remember feeling that full.
Homemade ice cream was our dessert of choice. Grandma and Grandpa had an old-fashioned ice cream maker, the kind with the hand crank. Each of us had to take our turn helping with the ice cream. Sometimes you got to sit on the top of the bucket to keep it stable, a folded towel between you and the lid to keep your butt from getting wet and cold. Other times, you had to crank. My skinny little arms didn’t like the cranking part, but I did it. My muscles would be burning by the time I finished.
It was always worth it, though. When the ice cream became too thick for us kids to crank, my dad took over for the finishing touches. Grandma took the bucket inside and emptied the melted ice into the sink. Then she scooped the thick, rich ice cream into a paper cup and gave us a spoon. Sometimes we added fresh strawberries to it, but my favorite was plain old vanilla.
Sometimes I wish I could isolate that memory and replay it over and over again in a constant loop. The warmth of the sunshine, the shade from the trees, the tickle of grass on bare feet, the sound of the grown-ups sitting on the porch, laughing and gossiping, occasionally letting slip things that were not intended for young ears. Those were the happy moments at Grandma’s house. I think it’s OK to remember that there were happy moments at Grandma’s house.
Grandma’s Grease Tacos
1 lb. Ground beef
1 medium onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 4 oz. can diced green chilis
2 dozen corn tortillas
Oil for frying
Cheddar cheese, divided
Diced avocado (if you’re fancy)
La Victoria’s mild green taco sauce
In a skillet, brown meat with onion and garlic. Add green chilis and a handful of cheddar cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Heat oil in the skillet. Using tongs, put a corn tortilla in the oil and fry just until soft. Turn over and fry for another few moments. You don’t want your tortillas to become crisp, or worse, that chewy kind of half-crisp. Add meat mixture while still frying. Fold in half. Remove from the oil and place on a plate covered with a paper towel to remove some of the grease. Continue with remaining tortillas.
Fill with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, and taco sauce as desired.
Double, triple, or quadruple recipe according to your family’s appetite and number of teenagers.
Serve with lots of napkins.