Tacotopia, Episode #4: Air-Dried Pork?

People — gringos, primarily — are often shocked when they order a taco in Mexico for the first time, and are presented with a tiny little affair with almost nothing on it.

“But where’s the cheese?” they say, their Baja Fresh faces in a glum state of disbelief, “Where’s the lettuce and the tomato and the sour cream and the six choices of salsa?”

Dried pork tacos

Dried pork tacos

It’s a similar conundrum to pastas in Italy, where oftentimes the best offerings are simple affairs (the famed cacio e pepe, for example) composed of just a few of the finest ingredients. I remember the first time I ordered a cheese sandwich as a boy in Paris, and was dumbfounded at the chunk of baguette that arrived with nothing more than a smear of camembert. And it was a revelation. More

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Au Pied de Cochon — Skinny Girls Roadshow LIVE from Montreal

A few years back, my pal Donnie brought a “duck in a can” over to our house. It was a dish he had experienced at a restaurant in Montreal that had changed his life, and convinced them to let him take one home. He and his wife Monica had texted me photos from the restaurant of whole pig heads passing by their table on large platters.

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The restaurant was called Au Pied de Cochon — “The Foot of the Pig” — and the “duck in a can” was duck meat, gravy and foie gras cooked in a can and then opened and poured over mashed potatoes and bread at table. A perfect example of Quebecois cuisine. More

Aunt Shoba’s Secret Meat

My kid’s call her “Aunt Shoba.” And she’s got a secret.

Our dear friend Shoba, you see, comes from Singapore, where she was recently visiting her parents. We fed her family while she was gone — including a birthday dinner for husband Bob. As a gesture of love and thanks, she brought me something back, a regal red bag with gold Chinese characters embossed on the front, a package weighing around a pound inside, that she slipped to me stealthily with a suggestion: “Hide that.”

Shoba's back

Shoba’s back

“What is it?” I whispered back.

“Meat,” she said.

It was called “bak kwa,” from the Lim Chee Guan company. She then sent me a link explaining. More

A Fine Day for Chili

Out on my morning run, I saw a couple deer mating. And I knew it was going to be a good day.

For it was the Saturday of the Topanga Chili Cook-Off and Swap Meet, which my friend Nonie — who is on the board of the Community Club — had coerced me into entering.

Tom and his chili paddle

Tom and his chili paddle

Last year, I was a judge alongside my pal Ernie. There were two chilis entered, neither of which were very good. “I think the best chili was the one they were selling at the concession,” I said to the gal running the event.

“But that came from a can!” she protested. More

The Dead

“His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.” —James Joyce, “The Dead”

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As I’ve confessed to in the past, I like holidays — particularly other people’s holidays. Our neighbors to the south, Mexico, for example.

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