Living in Europe with my Monterrey native girlfriend I was used to hearing how much she missed her local breakfast Taco cart “Jaimes”. It was all getting rather old after 2 years together. I mean how can you beat a good old plate of Bacon and eggs for breakfast? The thought of eating a Taco for breakfast was incomprehensible to me, as weird as eating a Chicken Caesar or Spaghetti for breakfast. How ignorant I was back in those days….Well last year to be precise.
Fast forward another year and we arrive in Monterrey to visit my girlfriend’s family for the first time, my first trip to Mexico. (Did an afternoon bus tour to Tijuana 20 years ago from LA and thought great Mexico ticked off the list but according to the girlfriend spending 4 hours one afternoon in Tijuana didn’t count as seeing Mexico!).
We landed in the evening and after the nervousness of meeting the family and getting settled at the house and new surroundings we woke the day after very early due to the change of time zones and fairly severe jetlag. Seven am and of course where else would we be other than in the car on the way to Jaime’s.
Sort of fathomed it wasn’t going to be a fine dining experience with white table clothes and waiters in bow ties. Parking the car next to an open van with a makeshift tent attached to the side and plastic tables and chairs from the 70’s confirmed this. I didn’t really know what to expect. My Spanish capabilities pathetically inadequate my girlfriend orders me 6 tacos of various flavourings based on her favourites. The tacos were delivered to the table by no doubt a family member of Jaime as he would have been all of 10 or 12 years old. A local drunk rolled up to our table with a guitar that had seen better days, the strumming and singing started with passion only a drunk person could muster at 7am.
The taco’s looked ok to the eye, 6 smallish tacos laid out on a plastic plate with the assorted salsa’s and onion coriander mixes laid out on the table. ‘This one (Girlfriend pointing to my plate) is Barbacoa’, a beef cheek stew taco. Oh lord here we go, here I was longing for a hot English muffin with butter and jam and now I’m finding myself about to eat part of a cow’s face. I took a bite hesitantly and began chewing away…..Chewing….Chewing….WTF!!! OMG!!! How the hell can this obsolete little parcel of corn flour and cows head send my taste buds off into this world of undiscovered flavour!!!?? I gobbled like a starved madman, 3 barbacoa tacos in like what seemed like seconds. I needed more of these new flavours, what’s next? “Manita Taco” she said, it was a deep fried gooeyness and sooooooo good, didn’t give a hoot I was eating a fatty pigs trotter, it was bliss. This were followed in ravenous succession by a deep fried jalapeno pepper stuffed with cheese taco and a scrambled egg taco which was the least tasty of the 6 but still better than any eggs I ever made.
After this culinary eye opener I sat there in a daze, how could it be that something so simple as a taco could redefine the way I was going to have breakfast forever.
It was just at that point I started noticing my surroundings, the majestic mountains encompassing the town of Santiago, the picturesque square with locals going about their business, and Jaime and his family working and laughing and loving this small business and the pleasure it gives to the small local community. As I watched him at work hand making his Tortillas to order and placing them on the grill the drunk started belting out another tune, he sounded so much better this time, everything seemed better and I knew I had found a new regular haunt.