The weather, the weather, what can one make of it?
Two weeks ago it was central heat, turtlenecks and sweaters. Last week…., central air conditioning, shorts and flip-flops. And today, today, like some sort of déjà voodoo, I find myself living in a text-book springtime sort of day, seventies and sunshine, like Alice in Wonderland herself. Or maybe her companion, the Mad Hatter.
How often I’ve wished I could “read” the bursts of spring-time weather as signs of summer-weather-to-come, like some fortune-teller that “reads” tea leaves to predict the future. Could that “colder-than-normal” spring day mean a “cooler-than-usual” summer? Might last week’s “hotter-than-normal” spring heat flash mean a “hotter-than-Hades” summer? Who knows… except that I’m thankful our extremist spring spells of weather cannot spell out their summertime forecasts into words. Why just think about it… if springtime weather could talk, wouldn’t their rhetoric resemble the extremes offered by hard right-wing and far left-wing talking heads after some big political event? One shouting “HOT” with the other yelling “COLD.” One shouting “GLOBAL WARMING”, the other yelling “BAH, HUMBUG!”
I suppose flip-flopping weather — winter-like lows mixed with occasional summer-like highs… is what the passage of spring is all about… the way it gracefully and, too oft with a hard jerk, transitions us from one extreme season to the next. All the while, offering us the gifts of the season, in new life. Flowers, and flushes of new soft green leaves on shrubs and trees. New surprise seedlings to share, to pass along to friends and family. Weeds to pull and toss away. And in a way I cannot begin to explain, offering a new lease on life to me, too… from hope and joy too dense to weigh.
Who cares if books in my reading stacks gather dust on their dust jackets? Or that home-cooking is practically nonexistent when there are gardening chores to do? Springtime, more than any other season, requires easy eats, which too often translates to eating out or thawing something quick from the freezer. What a wonder of wonders, then, that I recently stumbled upon the best sort of déjà vu, a recipe for beef tacos that reminds me of those once prepared by my former father-in-law.
I’m not sure whether Jack’s taco recipe was ever written, though I watched him prepare tacos (from afar) more than once. Small mountains of chopped onions. Ground Beef and spices. Tomato sauce and beer. All made from a secret recipe he received from a Hispanic neighbor — shared with one small stipulation — that Jack, on his honor, would never pass the recipe on to others. As far as I know, Jack never did. He died keeping his word, even though many of us longed to have that recipe.
Well… who knows why but that one day, during the dregs of last winter, I began thinking of Jack’s beef tacos. Which led me to wondering whether I could find something close to Jack’s tacos with the help of my favorite Internet search engine. I sit down in front of my computer. Carefully spelled out the three-word phrase, “beer beef tacos.” Tapped the return key. And up came many, many pages of possibilities to weed through before hitting something close to “paydirt.” The result shared below may not be an exact reincarnation of Jack’s tacos, even after my few changes. But it’s close enough to my memory to conjure up the best sort of déjà vu on my tongue.
Why not double the recipe and freeze “just-right” serving portions in small batches… to thaw and heat up for supper on those days when you don’t want to come inside and cook? In or outside of springtime. In or out the garden. Or whatever your own particular lost in time or space or wonderland looks like for you. Enjoy. And pass along.
Drunken Beef Tacos
In a large sauce pan or dutch oven, sauté over medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes, or until translucent:1/4 cup olive oil One large onion, chopped Add 2 minced cloves garlic during final minute of cooking time.
Add following ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes without covering with a lid:1 finely-chopped fresh jalapeno (more or less to taste) 1 15 oz. can of petite chopped tomatoes 1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce 1 tsp salt (or less — add gradually to taste) 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper 3 oz. beer
Add remaining ingredients in two stages:1 1/2 lbs of extra-lean ground beef, broken up with your hands or with a spoon or spatula 4 tsp chili powder 4 tsp ground cumin 1 tsp garlic powder 1 tsp oregano 1 Tbsp brown sugar 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Cook for a 2-3 minutes, continuing to break apart beef, before adding:3 oz. more of beer 1/4 cup water
Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, until liquid is almost gone.
Serve in your favorite shells or tortillas topped with chopped lettuce, onion, tomato and cheese.