Tag Archives | Mexican food

if this is how a twelve year old gives compliments, how will he do insults?

Yesterday around dinner time, I asked Liam if he wanted chicken in a tortilla or just plain chicken with rice (I know, what a dazzling array of options. Don’t tell Ina Garten; she’d just feel threatened).

Liam, sprawled on his bed in his fuzzy bathrobe, surfaced out of the book he’s reading (The Name of the Wind, which is apparently the Best Book Ever in the History of Words).

“You know, mommy,” he said, bleary eyed from reading, “lots of families get take-out, like, all the time. But you…You just…take a little of this and a little of that and then the next thing you know you’ve made chicken tacos like from Dos Toros. I mean, I never could’ve imagined, Dos Toros tacos, here, in Abu Dhabi. You’re amazing.”

Dos Toros, for those of you not lucky enough to live in Manhattan, is a stupendously good taqueria that used to be around the corner from our apartment.  They do real cooking.  Me? I put chicken in a pan with some magic dust (Blue Smoke’s magic dust), slap the chicken bits into a corn tortilla with some Mexican rice from the marvelous Maria. No cheese, no sauce, no guac, no tomato, no beans. Dry as hell but the kid thinks it’s some kind of haute gourment special, so who I am to disabuse him?

Perhaps fueled by his love for chicken tacos, the twelve-year old flung his arms around me. “You’re just so great and nice and helpful, and you find me great books–or your students suggest great books–and you help me with thinking and ideas and everything and I just love you! You’re such a helper! You’re so good at so much and help me with everything.”

I am basking. My pre-teen son, gushing about how much he loves me? Oh be still my beating heart.

There is a long pause. Liam keeps his arms around me, then looks up.

“I mean, except in math. You can’t really do anything in math that’s useful to me. I mean, in math you just really have to, you know, how to do it. And you just, I mean, you just don’t.  When will dinner be ready?”  He picks up his book and dives back into the story.

From the heights of glory, I am cast down to the valleys.

I shuffle into the kitchen to make the tacos, wondering who will help me count out how many tortillas I need.




Continue Reading · on March 3, 2013 in Books, family, food, growing up, Kids, Parenting

Abu Dhabi Tex-Mex: the secret of Maria’s kitchen

When we first moved to Abu Dhabi, I binged on Middle Eastern food: humus, moutabel, babaghanoush, tabouleh, chicken shwarma.  Yum.  And when I could no longer look a chickpea in the face, there were other foods to choose from…but I couldn’t find good Mexican food in a restaurant, and in the grocery stores, all I could find were the Old El Paso taco “kits,” replete with stale corn tortillas and “taco mix” made with an ocean’s worth of salt.

Then someone who lives in Abu Dhabi read my blog (imagine! an actual reader who isn’t my mother or my sister!) mentioned Maria to me, and then a friend in my building mentioned Maria, and then someone else mentioned “Maria…” They sounded like maybe they’d found the Grail—a Grail made of masa, chipotle, and black beans.

Maria doesn’t have a website or a restaurant or even one of those New York-style high-end food trucks.  She’s more like having a friend who also happens to be a fabulous chef. To order from Mari, someone has to give you her email address, then she sends you a menu, you  put in your order, and then once a week, you go collect your delicious, home-made Tex-Mex meals.

Maria’s salsa makes even rice cakes taste good

When I went to pick up my order, I had a moment of cultural confusion: sitting at a low table was a dimpled woman wearing bright-red lipstick and wearing full hijab: black abaya, black sheyla. She was checking orders and handling the money while three teen-age boys in dishdashes gathered each customer’s cartons and containers.  The food smelled delicious—but how on earth had an Arab woman learned to cook really authentic Mexican food? Continue Reading →

Continue Reading · on January 27, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Discoveries, expat, food, NYC, Travel

Grace in Small Things #4: In Praise of Grandma

1. Not a small grace note but a BIG grace note: my mother has been visiting us for the past week and having her here makes living so far away suddenly seem manageable.   It’s both extraordinary that she’s here and…completely ordinary. Of  course she’s here; Grandma always comes to visit in the fall.  The fact that she flew fifteen hours to do so…well, that’s just logistics.

2. Grandma brought candy corn. The genuine original high-fructose orange-and-white pyramidical “corn.” Bags of it. Five bags, to be precise.  Which should be just about enough—for me.  If my children are very, very nice to me, I may share a few kernels with them. Maybe.

3. Henna. We got henna tattoos, even though we weren’t guests at a Mumbai wedding. My very blue mother, who lives in a very red state, joked that now her neighbors (who were aghast when she voted for Obama) will be certain that Barack has converted her to Islam:

4. The team uniforms of the soccer club that organizes the teams Liam and Caleb play for: they look like human candy corn. Or McDonald’s workers. Or escapees from a Where’s Waldo book:

5. The fact that an actual reader of my blog (a reader! I have an actual reader who is not my mother, is not a relative, and who found this blog through…well, I have no idea how she found me, but I’m glad she did) saw fit to email me with the name of the woman here in town who cooks and delivers real Mexican food.  Muchas gracias, Tracy!

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Continue Reading · on October 30, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Children, family, grace in small things

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