Saturday, September 25, 2010

Gyros in the making

When I was really young, before my parents bought their restaurant, much of the food we had at home was super good peasant-like Mexican food. It was very rustic and hearty but serious flavors. The dishes had names usually but for a lot of reasons (my memory is poor, my dad can't hear me on the phone anymore, my mom can't remember now that she was an amazing cook or who I am, I never learned to speak Spanish, etc), I have to recreate much by taste and visual memory.

When you're super young you don't think about what other people are eating at their house but when I got a bit older and started to venture out more, I started to notice that we were eating food from some other planet over at mine. I mean, this was in Fort Wayne, Indiana in the 60's and 70's (see sample photo of a street near mine).

My mom grew up outside of Chicago but learned to cook when she met my dad from his mother Eloise. These were dishes from Northeast Mexico in the foothills of Monterrey.

My grandma stayed with us for awhile and from what I recall she loved to eat, she loved to drink beer and she was always laughing. She was shaped like an egg with little skinny legs and arms and always wore an apron over a faded cotton house dress. Her nylons rolled down like knee socks. She didn't love kids or me, like you imagine grandmothers. She liked sending me to Hep's Dairy up the hill for 7-up and spaghetti and to fetch her cold beers while she propped up her skinny legs and watched soap operas. She was cool though and I liked her a lot.

The stuff she taught my mom to make wasn't tacos and burritos but stuff like chicken with zucchini and corn cooked in a casserole with Spanish rice, ground beef in a broth with big chunks of potatoes and fresh tortillas to sop it up. She made a delicate chicken soup with cabbage and vinegar that was out of this world.

So anyway, then, I started to see that if I got a little creative, I could see similarities in the meals my friends folks made. They were using chicken and ground beef, they were eating was just all put together different.

You really don't want to be different when your little. Too bad. Now I see all the greatness of it, of my grandmother, of my mom, of the food.

I started to see how any dish could have a Mexican slant to it or be recreated with Latin flavors. But this was NOT like when my dad put all his white southern waitresses in peasant skirts and blouses. THAT was awkward. No, this is fun and just how I've seen food all my life. Same ingredients mostly but just with little sombreros on them.

I took some of that turkey last night and cut it up and spiced it with some of the fresh chipotle chili powder I made and sauteed it up for some Mexican inspired Gyro pitas. The turkey just soaked up that heat. I added a little cayenne & Mexican oregano to the yogurt dill sauce - Wow! I kept the tomato and onion and added lime juice. This was a hit!

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