My path to becoming The Oklahoman’s Food Dude began in the back of a truck. My family lived in south San Diego County in California until 1976. My father had a holster factory, and all of his employees were Hispanic. During summer, they were my baby sitters. It takes a factory, I guess.
The "roach coach” came to Cathey Enterprises daily. Knowing their customers, they carried not only sandwiches but chili con carne. Served in a can that, in my four or five years of life experience, seemed reserved for Vienna sausages, chili con carne offered something Mom’s food did not: heat. My mother was and is an excellent cook, but in the ’70s she was waist-deep in casseroles, canned peaches, pears or fruit cocktail, and roast every Sunday. From chili con carne, I graduated to Taco Bell, drinking the sauce straight from the little peel-top packets. When we moved to Texas in 1976, I stayed in California at a family friend’s house for about a month. Her name was Feline; her heritage was Puerto Rican. She introduced me to garlic. No matter the meal or dish, garlic was the main ingredient. Feline’s sauces were so succulent, her husband, Ernesto, always cleaned his plate, then put it to his lips and drank any remaining juices. Soon, I wanted tacos for dinner. My mother told me if I wanted tacos for dinner, then I should learn to make them. So, with the help of Lawry’s taco mix, I did. Chili wasn’t far behind, then salsa and guacamole and an annual Cinco de Mayo party that’s pushing 20 years. I love rustic cuisines and the communal power of food. If we can agree that ribs are delicious regardless of their sauce or rub, then how can world peace be far behind?