There was no denying it. The day simply felt different. There was a palpable electricity in the air. Every first Tuesday of the month it pulsed. The kids talked louder in the hallways, where they’d gather waiting for class to begin. It was Taco Tuesday! Finally a reason to get excited about school hot lunch.
This was rare. School-cafeteria lunches were usually mundane, and the ones they served at Burns Park Elementary in Ann Arbor, Michigan, were no different. There were the occasional good days: pizza and burgers. Sloppy Joes, maybe. But mostly we’d suffer through the slog, knowing that Taco Tuesday was getting closer and closer with each passing day. We stoically choked down whatever meals they passed off on us in the meantime. And waited for that sacred holiday to arrive once more.
I love tacos. In fact, I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t. Even in Ann Arbor, where they weren’t what anyone would confuse with authentic, the school tacos were sublime. My favorite. Hard shell. Beef. Cheese. That was it. We kids went wild for them. (I actually think they simply served the leftover Sloppy Joe meat in taco shells, which I readily admit sounds unappetizing. It wasn’t.) We would dream about them.
Something about the light in my eyes on those first Tuesdays must’ve been obvious to my mother, who inevitably asked what was up. When I told her, we began having taco nights at home, too. I was sort of amazed how easy they were to make, that you could buy the pre-packaged shells at the store all ready to be filled. My mom would cook the meat and add a packet of taco seasoning, which, when it hit the pan, filled the kitchen with a zesty and intoxicating aroma—if they made cologne out of the stuff, I’d wear it. On taco nights at home, we’d add lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and black olives, which I know offends some foodies, but I thought added a cool kick.
Through my humble first experiences making tacos, I came to realize they were the perfect food. They were so utilitarian. They contained all of the major food groups and could fit easily in your hand. Come to think of it, that’s also an apt description of a sandwich, too, but I like tacos better for one reason: texture.