Angry tacos, or how to ruin dinner in just a few simple steps

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There are some things you just shouldn’t do when you’re mad. You shouldn’t drive mad, or talk to your husband or your children when you’re mad. You shouldn’t go out and buy shoes and clothes and diamonds when you’re mad. You shouldn’t drink or sell your car or burn down your house when you’re mad.

You know all this. This is not news.

But there are other, more obscure activities that you should avoid when you’re mad, like frying taco shells.

First of all, frying taco shells is an inherently dangerous activity that requires standing over a pan of boiling oil. Not something you want to do when you’re at wit’s end.

In order to fry a taco shell, you have to gently drop the tortilla into the oil. You can’t just fling it in there as an exclamation point to whatever rage-filled statement you’re making to your spouse. No. You have to very gingerly place the tortilla in the oil, unless you want to splash it everywhere and ruin your blouse and make an unexpected trip to the E.R. for third degree burns on your arms.

Then you have to take your tongs and gently flip the tortilla, again avoiding making any kind of splash.

Next, and here’s the hard part, you have to take your tongs again and fold the tortilla in half. And then turn it again, and then, finally, remove it from the pan and place it onto a paper towel.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: corn tortillas can sense anger. If you even reach for them with the slightest bit of angst, they will crumble in your hand. They will stick to the bottom of the pan, they will fall apart when you flip them, they will absolutely tear in half when you fold them unless you are completely peaceful.

These are facts.

The Tuesday before last I rage-cooked tacos and it was a disaster. By the time I fried up the 12 tortillas necessary for dinner, I had insulted my husband, humiliated my older daughter and forced my younger one into hiding. And, you should have seen my tortillas.

Torn in half, every single one.

The problem with frying taco shells while angry is it is an exercise in self-perpetuity. Say you start out just a little miffed. What do you do first? Drop in the tortilla before the oil is hot enough. It sticks to the pan. You get bit madder: “HOW can it stick to the pan when the pan is filled with OIL?” you demand to the universe.

Then, say, your spouse, who is trying to help out and keep his head down at the same time, maybe reaches over your head to get the dinner plates out of the cabinet just as you’re trying to flip the tortilla.

“Get out of my way, I’m working here,” you think to yourself, and you grip the tongs a bit too tightly, tearing off part of the tortilla.

You see where I’m going here. So on and so on, the oil only getting hotter, the dogs weaving in and out between your legs, the tortillas tearing in half; and meanwhile, on the other burner, the meat has overcooked and you forgot to turn on the rice.

You might ask, is it really worth it? Don’t they sell taco shells at the grocery store?

Listen, I’m not a great cook. I’m decidedly adequate in the kitchen. I can follow a recipe; I can bake a chicken. I’m, you know, okay.

But I can fry taco shells. My mother taught me how to do it. When I was growing up, my mother, who is a great cook, used to love to make tacos, and I loved to eat them. So, now, frying up taco shells is a point of pride for me: “Look Mom! See how happy the girls are when I fry up taco shells just like you used to?”

(MOM, STOP READING THIS NOW!)

Let me tell you a secret. This week I just couldn’t muster up the positive energy necessary to fry up shells for Taco Tuesday. You know what I did? I went to WalMart on the way home and bought pre-made tostada shells. Then, I went home and opened up a can of black beans, heated them up on the stove, sliced up some avocado, dumped some shredded cheese in a bowl, opened up a container of pico de gallo and called everyone to the table.

Guess what? Everyone loved it.

“Oh I’m so glad you bought these tostadas,” my older daughter said. “I love these.”

“Me too!” said the younger one.

So, I’ll let you in on another secret: I just might not be frying up taco shells anymore.

Just please, don’t tell my mother.