Tootsie Rolls and Bazooka Bubble Gum

In Mexico, in the fifties and sixties, there were no Tootsie Rolls or Bazooka Bubble Gum.

My father’s parents, Al and Daisy Schneiderman, would come and visit from New York, once or twice a year. The aroma of the Tootsie Rolls and the Bazooka Bubble Gum they brought us, escaped their luggage through some magical form of osmosis, and pierced through me then, and through my memory even now.

My mom and dad, my brothers, and I, would excitedly get into the car to go pick up grandma and grandpa at the small Mexico City airport. We’d park the car, and walk into the airport, with its two or three runways. We’d walk in the front door, and then out the back glass door. Then, we’d go through a low orange gate, and join the rest of those who were also there to greet friends or loved ones.

We’d walk right onto the tarmac, and watch the plane approaching from high in the sky, its noise growing louder as it came lower and closer to us. Once that giant flying machine came to a stop, a set of stairs would be rolled out to the plane, and little by little the passengers would disembark.

We’d watch carefully, seeing who’d be the first to spot our grandparents. “There they are! There they are!” we’d scream, and argue about who’d seen them first. My big, heavy-set Grandpa Al’s cologne, smelled so heavenly, so exotic, so American. There were no smells like that in Mexico. He’d bend his enormous body, and pick me up, and I would smell him, and stare at the sparkly ring he wore on his fat pinky. Grandma Daisy was also fat, but pretty, and nice and cute…all four foot ten of her. She always wore a hat with a net that went down to her forehead, and kept her hair in place.

Back at our house we’d stand like three little soldiers at attention, anxiously watching as they opened up their suitcases. About to burst out, “Hurry up!” We’d valiantly hold it in, and patiently wait for our Tootsie Rolls and Bazooka Bubble Gum. What an extravagance that was for our small beings.

Once settled in, grandma and grandpa would call us around the piano. Grandpa would sit and play, his big fingers dashing up and down the black and white keys, shiny ring on pinky flying along, while grandma sang in her squeaky soprano voice, “If you knew Susie like I know Susie, Oh! Oh! Oh! What a girl…” beautiful innocent days they were.

Chicken Taquitos

Taquitos and salsa or taquitos and guacamole, are probably the most popular dish I make. In this case I make them with chicken but you can put almost anything into a taquito. When I am having vegetarians as guests, I make them with refried beans.
No matter what I put into taquitos everybody raves!

Chicken Taquitos

6-8 corn tortillas
1 cup of shredded chicken breast (for example, from a soup you have made)
1/3-1/2 cup canola oil

Method

Warm up the 6-8 tortillas in the microwave oven for one minute.
Keep the tortillas warm in a tortilla warmer or in between two dry kitchen towels.

Take one tortilla at a time and fill it with a little more than a tablespoon of shredded chicken. Roll it up tightly and you now have a taquito.

Hold each taquito together by putting two toothpicks through them, and then place one next to the other on a flat surface.

When you have finished rolling all of the taquitos, place canola oil into a frying pan large enough to hold all 8 taquitos.

Heat the oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes, and using a pair of tongs, place each taquito into the hot oil, leaning one up against the next.

Allow the taquitos to fry for about 5 minutes, or until they become crisp and golden. Taquitos will now hold their rolled up shape so that you may remove the toothpicks and turn them over so that they fry for another 5 minutes on the other side.

Remove each taquito from the oil and place on a paper towel so that excess oil is absorbed. When you have removed all of the taquitos pat them gently on their top side to absorb that excess oil as well.

Serve hot and accompany with a homemade salsa or a guacamole or a Pico De Gallo (a combination of tomatoes, onion, cilantro and serrano chili peppers).

Taquitos are the perfect party food, so If you are planning a party, you can make a large batch ahead of time, and freeze them.

Just defrost the taquitos in the refrigerator, the day before you want to serve them, and heat them in a 300 degree oven for about 30 minutes, so that they regain their crisp texture.

Crowdsourcing Cookbook Research (in other words: Help!)

Alex again here, with exciting news: I’m going to Mexico City! Soon!

I haven’t visited my paternal grandmother (Bobe) and the rest of my family in Mexico for over a year, and I’m due. While down there, I want to take some pictures and ask Bobe questions about her life, as I always do when I see her.

The problem: I feel like I’m out of questions.

You know when you think about something or work on it for so long that it gets blurry and you can’t see it anymore? That’s how I feel about the interviews I’ve done with my grandmother. I know there are a million more interesting things I could ask, and just as many things she could tell me. I just don’t know what those things are.

So, I have a question I’d like to ask you:

Food is part of all our identities, whether we grew up eating tacos, gefilte fish, tofu or kale. If you could turn back time and ask a grandparent about the food in his or her life, what would you ask? 

Or really, if there’s anything you’d want to ask your grandparents, feel free to share that as well. My siblings and I are lucky to have 3 grandparents living and there’s always more we could be learning from them.

Thanks!

Bobe in L.A., shredding chicken

Fideos (Mexican Lokshen)

As children, in Mexico, my mom would pick us up after school at 2 p.m., and she would take us home for lunch. One of my favorite side dishes at lunch were Fideos. Fideos were angel hair type noodles prepared Mexican style. My two brothers and I loved Fideos, and given the chance we would have eaten them every day for lunch.

Fideos

3 tablespoons canola oil
1 eight to nine ounce package of angel hair pasta nests
1 fifteen ounce can tomato sauce
2 ripe tomatoes quartered
1/8th onion
2 garlic cloves
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili peppers (optional)

Method

Pour the canola oil into a large pot and warm it up over medium heat. Place the pasta nests in the pot and spread them out in a single layer on top of the oil. Allow the nests to toast to a golden brown. When one side has browned, turn them over with a pair of tongs, and brown them on the other side.

When the pasta nests have browned on both sides, break them up with the pair tongs, lower the heat and continue to mix consistently.
While keeping an eye on the pasta, and making sure it doesn’t burn, prepare the sauce, by placing all of the remaining ingredients in a blender and liquefy.

Raise the heat to high, and When the pot is very hot add the sauce from the blender. Bring the noodles in the sauce to a boil, stir well, lower the heat, cover, and allow to simmer 5 – 7 minutes. You will now see that most of the sauce has been absorbed, and the Fideos are cooked. Remove them from heat, and transfer them to a serving dish. The Fideos will continue to absorb the sauce.

If desired, sprinkle the crushed chili peppers over the Fideos, serve very hot, and enjoy!

Yom Kippur and Baseball Memories

We had a small, light blue transistor radio in our house in Mexico City. The sight of my two brothers excitedly huddled around my father listening to game four of the 1963 World Series on that little radio, is deeply etched in me. I still remember their screams, with each run scored, and their sighs of disappointment when their player struck out. Gary was a Yankee fan because he loved Mickey Mantle, but my dad loved Sandy Koufax, and he and Dickie were Dodger fans. Though my father was not religious, he beamed with pride in his heritage when on that Sunday, during game 4 of the Series, his southpaw fellow Jew, Sandy Koufax won the series for the Dodgers, defeating the Yankees 2-1. Gary and Wikipedia filled me in on the play-by-play details of the game on that memorable day…
“The Dodgers scored first in the bottom of the fifth on a monumental Frank Howard home run. The Yankees tied it on a Mickey Mantle home run in the top of the seventh. But in the bottom of the inning, Gilliam grounded to Clete Boyer at third and got all the way around to third base when Joe Pepitone lost Boyer’s peg in the white-shirted background. Gilliam scored a moment later on Willie Davis’s sacrifice fly. Sandy Koufax went on to hold the Yankees for the final two innings, for a 2–1 victory and the Dodgers’ third world championship.”
My father lived and breathed baseball, the national pass time he had learned to love growing up in Brooklyn and The Bronx. Being a second generation New Yorker, he had brought with him to Mexico, his love for the game of baseball. He always managed the little league teams my brothers played on. The name of our team was Los Diablos, and our players wore bright red shirts and white pants. Dickie, was three years older than Gary and he was the stronger player. One day though, my daddy put Gary in the outfield and when the batter for the opposing team hit the ball straight to Gary, my father cringed and closed his eyes. He opened them to the screams of all of the fans. Gary had caught the ball and became a little hero that day!
Most of the kids on our team came from very poor families like one of our stars, our pitcher, Fernando Nava. Once my father organized an outing with our family and all of our team members. We all went to Cuernavaca, a resort town close to Mexico City. The players had never been so happy. They dove into the swimming pool over and over, and when they got tired of swimming they ate torta after torta (Mexican sandwiches) when they got out of the pool, forgetting for a time their difficult life circumstances.
I was never given the option of going out for the baseball team, the possibility wasn’t even a part of anyone’s consciousness. First I was too little and second, girls just didn’t do that in those days. Yet I was so happy selling the hot dogs and cokes on game day that I could care less about playing the game.
Each year, as Yom kippur approaches, and we are in baseball playoff mode, these fond childhood memories return, and I happily wallow in them for a good long while.