or How you can never go home again.
I start telling Diego about the taco place we need to visit before we have left Lexington city limits. Tasty Tacos, which is 675 miles away in Des Moines, was started over 60 years ago with a family recipe and the motto “Nada es Imposible,” nothing is impossible. I clung to that thought as we started the boring 12-hour drive — made nearly unbearable by morning sickness — to a family wedding. Nothing is impossible as long as those hole-in-the-wall tacos, so unlike anything I could get in Kentucky, were on the other side.
Attempting to describe the cloud-like fried tortillas to my husband brings back memories of my sophomore year in high school….
“Go go go!” five giggling teenagers crammed into Katie’s VW Golf. Monday lunch was a race against the clock. 36 minutes to get to Tasty Tacos, order, eat and drive back to school, park, and get to class. We planned our orders during the frenetic drive to the restaurant so there was no time wasted once we were there. Driving faster than recommended on side streets, we would make the 10 minute drive in 7.
“One flour taco, one order of Krispos.” My order only changed if my funds were low. Payday was still four days away, so no second taco today.
There are a few rules we learned about eating here:
- Always remember your receipt, it has your order number on it.
- Grab your bottle of sauce before going to your seat, or you will have to trudge back up to the counter for a third time before you get to eat.
- The napkins are really small, so grab at least three for each taco to avoid a mess.
- Clear the table when you are done. It was a small place and was pretty busy at lunch time. The sauce goes back to the front, there was a cloth to wipe the tables.
This weekly ritual had its own vocabulary known only to our small group. I can’t remember most of it: our word for the tiny napkins, what we would call the walk of shame of forgetting the sauce, or the sound of the chairs as they scraped the linoleum floor.
The Krispos we called “sand chips” because the cinnamon and sugar covered tortillas always came with enough extra sugar to spoon up afterward. I best remember “scruv,” how we would describe how fast we would eat and how delicious it was.
Even as a teenager, I knew this was good taco. It was my first introduction “good grease”, unlike the Taco John’s toilet breaking grease I ate in my childhood.
After tearing through some tacos and cleaning our tables, the ride back to school was even more exhilarating. Somehow we were rarely late for class, even with the limited parking options around the school. We’d race back to the building, still laughing that once again we’d flown close to the sun, but still had our wings. “Nada es imposible!”, we’d shout.
18 years later, Diego and I roll into town after lunchtime and do a quick hello with the family. They offer us some cold cuts, but we have other plans. I’m feeling pretty nauseous, but tacos sound better than explicitly forbidden deli meats.
Barely able to contain my excitement, I drive through my old haunts, pointing out personal “landmarks” along the way. With only one missed turn (I hadn’t lived here in 9 years, remember), we arrive.
It’s a laundromat.
How could no one have told me? Surely the closing of my favorite taco place was deserving of a phone call or a text. A quick google search shows us that many locations are still open (phew!). The nausea ratchets up, so I navigate while Diego drives downtown.
In the downtown maze of one way streets, we miss the restaurant because this location has moved next door into a brand new building. Another trip around the block, we park in the huge parking lot and are hit with a freezing blast of air conditioning as we open the door.
“Two flour tacos and a Krispo, please.” I feel gross, but optimistic that I’ll want the sweet cinnamon chips later in the day if I can’t eat them now. I fill up a cup of water and go lie down in a booth.
Diego studies the menu as if he hasn’t been listening to me tell him about the homemade flour tortillas. He orders two corn tacos. I sit up when I hear that.
“What the hell?” I ask him. Turns out, he has a hard policy about always getting corn tortillas. I can’t believe I’m carrying this man’s child if he can’t trust me about fucking tacos.
I sat there, huddled in the cold, sterile, new restaurant. We are warned that you can never go home again once you have truly left it. Here under the bright fluorescent lights, in all my pregnant misery, I understand this truth for the first time.
Our food is ready, but as we are the only ones there, they don’t even call out our number. Diego fetches our tray. Like any Tasty Taco newb, he forgets the sauce. I hobble over and grab a bottle, then plop a healthy amount on the first taco.
I take a bite, and I am home. The flaky flour shells were delicate yet strong, not unlike how I was feeling. The grease is soaked into the savory tortilla without making it soggy, the meat is hot and spicy without burning my mouth and the sauce gives the perfect bite of acid. Nothing has changed, and I “scruv” the first taco in under a minute. Following up with a krispo, I eat the sweet chip like I’m a teenager, licking the cinnamon and sugar off my fingers and taking a spoonful of the “sand” for good measure.
Diego looks at my tacos with envy. His corn tortilla rule left him with boring, broken tacos. He gets up and orders two original flour tacos.
Laughing, I notice my nausea has subsided. Tasty Tacos has cured my morning sickness. I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, “¡Nada es Imposible!”