I finally did it. It left me deeply filled with regret. Literally filled with it, in the form of about a pound of fries, mystery white sauce (if you ask me, it was Alfredo), and a tortilla.
After a year of mocking them for the impostors that they are, I tried one. A. French. "Taco."
Every time I walked by a stupid "taco" fast food restaurant, I was reminded of the meat-and veggie filled goodness I so craved but couldn't get anywhere in this country. They mocked me, they laughed in my face. When my students would practice telling me what they liked to eat, half the class would say "I like tacos" (And then the other half would say "I LOVE tacos"). Each time I resisted the urge to spend half the lesson spreading the good word, being a sort of gastronomical evangelist (says the girl who is perfectly content living off of canned food). But the French are extremely laïc (strict separation of religion and state), and I may have gotten in trouble. But each time my heart would scream: THESE ARE NOT TACOS PEOPLE!
A few weeks ago I was talking to the mom of one of my private lesson students, and somehow tacos came up. I think I was telling her that that was one of the things I miss most about home: good Mexican food (among other things). Tacos! I said, the tacos they have here are NOT real tacos!
I'm used to talking about this sensitive topic with other foreigners, and they all immediately understand and agree. Ah, yes, those. Those are an abomination, they say in agreement (well...maybe not in those exact words, but more or less). But this woman, this poor, deprived French woman, she just sort of cocked her head at me. What do you mean? she asked.
What do I mean... There weren't any words in any language to explain this. I wanted to take this unknowingly suffering woman by the hand and walk her to a taco truck and show her the light. But this is France, where you can find 300 kinds of cheeses and frozen, ready-to-eat snails, but nothing even resembling a real taco.
But...but a taco is shaped like this, I mimed a folded-over tortilla, and it's filled with meat, and has cheese and lettuce...
Yes, she said, that's what tacos are here. Brainwashed.
No, no, she was on the path that would lead her to darkness. I googled a picture. Her tone of voice seemed to shrug. Yeah, she said, that's what they have here.
I gave up. I realized I couldn't fairly say why the tacos here are crap because, frankly, I had never tried one. Maybe they were magical, maybe they put real tacos to shame, maybe I was crazy and they really were real tacos (that are sold in kebab places...yeah, that would have made sense).
So, I decided, if I want to be a good taco missionary, I need to step over into the dark side. And today was that day. A few of us went together, because you should never have to do things this scary without emotional support.
And so I got a "taco." It had meat. And it was wrapped in a tortilla. And that, my friends, is where the resemblance ends. It was a tortilla the size of my head, folded four ways, completely closed and pressed in what I think was a panini maker. Inside, it was full of fries, a bit of chicken, a crap ton of white sauce and some curry powder. I ate it, bite after reluctant bite, each time reassuring myself that this would soon be over, I would cross over a stronger person. But never again.
I look out onto this nation of proud people, and I can't help but be sad for them. They know not what they do. The errors of their ways are not apparent.
It was gross, but I can say I did it. I tasted the dreaded name-thief of a taco. I suppose it's the same feeling of sick feeling of accomplishment you get when you try haggis in Scotland (unless you like oatmeal and meat-stuffed innards, in that case you scare me). It will probably take me about a week to digest this monstrosity, and when my body has rid itself of this lump of oil and potatoes, I will wait patiently for the day I return home and can finally eat a real taco (well...as real as it can get in Washington).
But Ola, you may ask, if you wanted tacos so badly, why didn't you just make them? To that I say: you obviously don't understand how all my laziness manifests itself in my cooking habits, do you?