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Tuesday, February 03, 2004  

Ever since we blasted southward across the central-coast stretch of Hwy 1 in the faint pre-dawn light some five months ago I have had a void in my very soul. A void that I have only been able to fill once in those five L O N G months, and a void that can only truly be satisfied by pork. Fried pork tacos from the greatest Taqueria that I've ever know to be more specific. The carnitas tacos from Taqueria Vallarta in Santa Cruz are the only true medicine for what ails me.. The carnitas there is devine; each tender fiber infused with yummyness. Los Angles is a VAST city, a cornucopia of ethnic food and cultural diversity. But in five months I haven't been able to find a goddamed taco. It sounds impossible, but I have tried hard, some would say obsessed, to find a taqueria to help make me whole again.

Let me take a moment and relate the Curious Dichotomy of Mexican Cuisine to you. My childhood was spent in the suburban sprawl of Orange County. And while all my friends and neighbors were WASPS there was still the ghosts of native culture and good Mexican food abounded. From El Capitan to El Conejo to some little place in HB on Magnoilia I knew where to GO to get some enchiladas done RIGHT. All these places served, what I will call here, "homestyle" Mexican: wet burritos, enchiladas heavy on the sauce, thick beans, all the stuff you would expect to get from say El Torito or Acapulco. And my favorite of all was the dos enchiladas con queso. I have probably consumed some 60,000 in my 25 years on this earth.

Then I graduated from highschool and moved 400 miles north to the misty mountain nestled Santa Cruz. Moving to the Central Coast caused quite a bit of culture shock, and I remember one instance in particular where I went out for Mexican with some friends. We went to a "Taqueria," which was a first for me; the menu was a list of food types (tacos, burritos, nacho etc) and a second list of meats (Carne Asada, Carnitas, Pollo Asada, etc.) The food was completely different than the Mexican food from back home. The tacos were served with just onions and salsa on two tortillas. Cheese enchiladas were nowhere to be found on the menu. I was confused by this affront to all that I knew of Mexican food. Over the next couple of years I learned to L O V E this new genre of Mexican food, and found that Taqueria-style restaurants greatly outnumbered the "homestyle" establishments in Santa Cruz. The king of all Taquerias in my mind is Vallarta. They just have the most ass kicking food. My stomach waters and my mouth growls at just the thought of a couple of their tacos.

And here is the nature of the Mexican Culinary Dicotomy. Taqueria vs Homestyle. Why are there two clearly divergent styles of cuisine? I would really like to know. I don't think it is a matter culinary region, though this may have something to do with it. I have hypothesized that it is mainly a socioeconomic difference though I have precious little to support that argument. My best guess it that the Taqueria fills more of a "fast food" niche while the "homestyle" cuisine is more what would be served at a home. Though again, this is mainly conjecture. I welcome any other theorys into these two delectably different "genres" of Mexican cuisine.

So any way... We move to the City of Angles and expect that there will be good Mexican on every corner. But in our neighborhood the best mexican is Del Fucking (not to dis Del Taco. It fills a niche, but it won't fill my Void.) I've been jonesing like Sinatra in "Man With A Golden Arm" for weeks, and (to steal some prose from PA,) all other Mexican food has been like methadone to my taco-addled psyche. And yet I still lacked the cojones and the support to wander into some taco-shop in East LA or in the Latin markets downtown, so I turn towards technology and after a few hours of googling everything I could think of I find a prospect. It seems that there is a chain of latino supermarkets in The Valley that hold within them a full on TAQUERIA. So today, after a trip to "Los Angles' answer to Ellis Island" we rocked on over to NoHo to try out what I would hope to be a serviceable way to fill The Void.

To be continued...

posted by JMV | 2/03/2004 08:15:00 PM
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