When I order an iced latte no flavor each morning at the local hotel café, I usually get a question confirming my selection. “No flavor?” It’s one of those questions asked in a way to ensure that I made the right choice.
In actuality, I think coffee with milk and ice has a lot of flavor. Mostly coffee flavor. That’s the way I like it. Adding a dash of syrup, or a spray of whip cream feels like something is getting in the way. I like coffee to taste like coffee.
When it comes to food, the purity of the taste, or of the way it looks, always appeals to me, and in our country, our American way of life, purity is not something we want in food. We like sour cream to cover our entire taco or enchilada. We want a thick layer of cheese on top of almost anything. We use terms like smothered and it makes us feel like when something is smothered that it is blanketed with endless extra flavor.
I want to know what’s underneath. Often, it’s the tortilla that an older lady spent hours making. Adding salt, lard, water. Mixing, stretching, tossing. She doesn’t change her ways and she doesn’t measure anymore because she knows exactly what it takes to have that tortilla taste just right. She makes them every morning before the other cooks arrive.
Other times it’s the chicken filling that has been stewing in a pot. Only a few ingredients were thrown in with the chicken to get it to the flavor everyone expects. Onion, garlic, salt, pepper. A little more of this and a little more of that. Then the hand shredding begins.
If you’re lucky, you can taste it when it’s in a large bowl, hand shredded and still hot. When you do, you would never want to cover it with a gunk of sauce or a splat of cream.
Where I live, in the borderlands, there is sometimes a dancing of two different Mexican cultures, and sometimes a conflict when they both meet.
The south side of the border let’s food be food. A taco has meat, a corn tortilla, and salsa as topping. The only question you get asked is if you would like verdudas (vegetables). This means they will either add cabbage or an onion and cilantro mixture. It’s as pure as it can get.