“Your mom called, she wants some rolled tacos, a sandia agua fresca and lots of salsa verde. Don’t forget the extra tortillas for my albondigas!”
I try to explain to my sister, that my mom is her mom too; and as the sun beats through my driver’s side window I can’t help but smile as I pull up to the window at the taco shop. I can hear meat sizzling on the grill and the smell the sour vinegar from the carrots. I am remembering a special “picnic” my mom took my sister and I on when we first moved to San Diego. Sunset Cliffs at sunset with Carne Asada burritos, amongst cuddling couples we sat on big rocks, and munched through fresh flour tortillas and succulent and faintly charred steak. There is a blurry scene of my sister spilling salsa all over her white shorts. It may or may not have happened.
Growing up in California, we are spoiled with the delicious selections of Mexican food. Be it tiny tacos pescado rolled up with lots of fresh chopped onions and cilantro and a squeeze of lime, best eaten with wet hair and sand in between your toes, super nachos from the swap meet made with french fries and piled with guacamole and sour cream, or a slow cooked mole dark, rich and so good you can’t think of a single dish it wouldn’t improve. In San Diego it is hard to find a block without a business with it’s name ending in–berto’s and a walk through the park always includes the delicious smoke from asada.
Although there are many haute cuisine dishes from Mexico that are best eaten off a table covered in white linen, my fondest memories are of the street food. The dingy little taquerias, fruit stands with mangos dripping with fragrant sweet juices that would put honey to shame. My ultimate favorite is the man that pushes around a hot pot of oil so that he can make you (I mean ME!) cinnamon-y sweet churros to order, I LOVE that guy! I have this Sex and the City-esque memory of me running through San Francisco’s Carnivale chasing the churro guy down, Los Lonely boys adding the soundtrack.
Most orders from the taqueria come with loads of salsas and a magical little bag of these tangy, spicy, still crunchy, ever so slightly sweet. Pickled Carrots. Genius. My mouth is watering right now, like in real life.
So what is a homesick California girl to do when she’s about as far away from Super Cocina as possible? Make her own that’s what she does, and then she shares with you!
When making these pickled carrots, look for the biggest ones you can find and slice them on a diagonal. That will give the biggest possible surface to absorb all the delicious aromatics you are going to pickle them with.
I feel so fortunate to have grown up around such a rich culture with the dynamic culinary traditions and the friendly people that Mexico has. You haven’t really lived until you have a friend who’s mama teaches you how to make tamales at Christmas time. Even if you make them extra tiny and want to stuff them with Baba Ganoush.
Serve these pickled carrots the next time you host Taco Tuesday. Make this AvocadoTomatillo Salsa too, it’s super fancy.
Did I mention that Mexico is also the birthplace of chocolate. It’s probably why they make the best Hot Chocolate, and you thought it was the Swiss. Ha!