Ever since I started this blog in the summer of 2008, inspired by a comment my friend Phil made on the Barbecue & Baseball blog, I have wanted to write a title for a blog post reminiscent of something Richard Brautigan would title one of his short stories. There is no writer I have ever read - not my current favorites like Mark Arax or Jonathan Gold or my literary idols of the 20th century like Jim Harrison and Cormac McCarthy - who write sentences quite like Brautigan, equal combinations of whimsy and beauty.
Saturday afternoon I was over at my parents' house, and it felt like a nice day for carne asada. The Wistaria vine above the back patio was as beautiful as I have ever seen it. I have a lousy sense of smell, but I could smell this strongly from twenty feet away. I was grilling on the barbecue when Elizabeth sat down at one of the tables.
"Should we eat outside?" I asked.
"Yes," she said.
Years ago I used to either buy flap meat at Ralph's and marinate it for a couple days, or buy the carne asada at Taylor's butcher shop, which, although delicious, was a little too decadent for true carne asada. ("Carne asade for white people!" is how one of the butchers at Taylor's once described it to me. I have no idea what that meant but it seemed to make sense.) Then, a few years ago, I discovered the carne at King Ranch Market. Inexpensive (it was $3.99 a pound when I started buying it, it's now $4.99 but still a great bargain) and fantastic, marinated in their own blend, I became addicted to it. I cannot accurately state the number of barbecues and parties over the years at which I have made this carne asada, but it's somewhere in the dozens.
I purchased four pounds of it at King Ranch. Admittedly this is a lot for four people, but leftover carne asada is not a problem - it can go in sandwiches, top nachos, or just be eaten cold. The meat cooks on a hot grill in about three minutes per side. Sometimes there is a lot of fat that needs to be trimmed away, but this time there was not. I chopped it up while the table was being set. I spooned some carne into three tortillas for myself, topping it with cilantro. I assumed my parents would have an onion that I could dice, but they did not. Never make assumptions.
A few weeks ago, after reading something I had written, my dad asked what the difference is with Mexican Coke. I explained that the use of cane sugar adds a slightly different sense of sweetness and, at least to me, a cleaner aftertaste. He remarked that he had never tried it. So I had also picked up four bottles at King Ranch. My dad drank his in less than two minutes.
The tacos were outstanding. I ate five of them, adding hot sauce to my last two. My parents had been to the Victory Park farmers market in the morning and I had asked them to pick up a container of Holy Guacamole for Elizabeth, which she loves. So she added some guacamole to her tacos. I think that's disgusting but I took a picture of it anyway, since pretty much everyone I know thinks guacamole is good.