Every year, the day before the family reunion, we share a tradition of making about 850 tacos to share with our extended family the following day.
This is important to our generation who remembers countless times where we all had to pitch in to help while Grandpa Luis and Grandma Licha would whip up a giant batch of their top secret recipe for various weddings, dances, and other family events.
We do this for the reunion to keep those memories and traditions alive and to pass them down for generations.
It was over 100 degrees today as the generations gathered to prepare the latest batch. A labor of love. Grandpa Luis sat proudly in the shade with a cold beer as his great grandchild Chloe put on her apron to help out.
I asked him today how he came up with such a unique secret recipe for his famous tacos. I thought to capture it here to share with my primos and tios. As he grows older and more tired, I find myself appreciating these stories more over time.
He told me about how most people think of making tacos with plain refried beans. He talked about how some people even go so far as to add chorizo to their refried beans, but that he has always had an adventurous palate. Savoring different flavors and combinations from all over the world has always been a part of his character, which he attributed to his father.
This memory took him back to a story of his youth.
Decades ago, he would try to entice his mother, great grandma Carmen, to try different flavors. His father, Pablo, used to love to try different kinds of tacos with all different kinds of meats, but there were many dishes that the kids never ate because great grandma Carmen never cooked what she didn’t enjoy herself.
One day after a long day at work as a preteen, my grandpa Luis spotted a taco truck. He knew that it was going to take an hour bus ride to get back home, but he could smell the aromas and knew that the line in front of that truck meant quality meats. He also really wanted his mom to learn to try something different.
Luis ordered a big plate of tacos with sesos (brains) and anxiously traveled the entire bus ride to share them with his family. When he got home, he offered them up to his mom first, who of course absolutely loved them. When he finally told her what was inside, she immediately threw up! He had a good laugh over that one and told her that he wished she would try different things more often.
Years would pass and he and his wife, Alicia, would eventually start their own catering business for special events, weddings, and gatherings. I remember them dancing around that kitchen like a choreographed routine, occasionally arguing over what each added to the pot.
“Luis, you’re adding too much!”
“Licha, that’s not enough! Add more!”
Over the years, they customized their top secret taco recipe.
Grandpa Luis told me that they added chorizo to their refried beans and experimented with other ingredients together, following their taste buds. They would try adding onions, spices, this or that, and wait anxiously for the reviews to roll in.
Eventually, Grandpa Luis realized that they just would never be able to please everyone.
What is passed down through the generations and affectionately known as the “Secret Guel Taco Recipe” is the one that he loves the best: the perfect combination of ingredients to meet his own adventurous palate.
As he dipped his chip into this year’s batch of beans for a taste with his cold beer, Grandpa Luis said to me today: “and if somebody doesn’t like it, too damn bad.”
Please note: I would tell you the specific ingredients, but then I’d be giving away family secrets here – if you really want to know, we invite you to join us for to make our annual batch of tacos the day before the reunion every year at 9am. Come join in the fun and we’d be happy to share the family secrets through our hands.
Guest writer: Lydia Guel