My first husband’s parents were wonderful hosts. Tom’s father Jack was a great cook who would give up his entire Saturday afternoon to prepare some fine meal for his large expanding family, who at that time, was in the process of adding spouses and children to the fold.
I remember the first time I met Jack and Betty. And their children: Linda and John and Mike and Don. And their current spouses or signficant others. It was a full house that Saturday evening in a tiny cottage: full of people, full of love and full of hugs. I came home telling my mother that I’d never been hugged so much in my life. And I wasn’t sure I liked it.
But the food. What can I say but that I’ve never tasted food in the way they prepared and served it; while I was no stranger to good food, Jack and Betty served foods that eventually had me asking for every recipe, foods that today are staples on my table and in my life. Big weekend breakfasts and every Saturday night supper with family featuring a menu that changed with the season — if good weather, we were treated to an outside grill featuring barbequed chicken and roasted ears of corn — if rainy or cold, it was homemade beef tacos or these beef enchiladas.
Jack and Betty’s weekly gatherings of family inspired my own weekly family gatherings when we first returned to Oklahoma three summers ago. But like me, their gatherings were skinnied down to what eventually became do-able for all the families involved. Jack and Betty had five children while I have four; the larger the family, the harder it is to pull everyone together. But I’ve found it easier when I offer to cook homemade calzones. Or fry some chicken with all the sides with some home-made rolls. And I think Jack and Betty found it easier when they offered to feed their frenzy as well.
Betty taught me how to make their grilled corn and her stove top baked beans and her birthday cake that we still serve to some members of our family. Like Kyle. But what Jack and Betty taught me most was how best to host a family get together by building a work and wait sandwich: first you work hard to prepare something good to eat — second you get out-of-the-way and wait for love to make the dinner a party — and third you work hard to clean up the dishes and package up the leftovers, either for home or as a take-away.
I don’t possess Jack’s beef taco recipe. It was a deep dark secret that Jack promised his source never to share. And to Jack’s credit and our loss, Jack never did share that taco recipe. But as for this beef enchilada recipe, Jack was all too glad to share. I’d forgotten how good these enchiladas were until my husband and I sat down to dinner last night.
And one more thing: Now I say hugs all around. From my life to yours.
Jack’s Beef Enchiladas
Serves 5 to 6Ingredient List 1 large package of flour tortillas (Jack used 10 large ‘burrito’ size tortillas — I opt for 16 of the smaller 10″ size), 8 oz package of mild cheddar cheese 2 lbs ground chuck onion 2 8 oz cans tomato sauce flour for thickening Spices: salt, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin