Eye Opening.

getty_rf_photo_of_cherry_tomato_on_white_plateI sort of don’t know how to start this post, because I know when I’m all done I will have committed to never having fast food.  Again.  And, because I’m fairly obsessive, I know I cannot really make a commitment like that, because as soon as I do, I’ll head right to a drive through for a big whatever.

When I was a little girl, we had a McDonald’s or a Jack In The Box (I truly can’t remember) on the corner.  And I remember my Mom having to call in the order.  This was around the same time the jogging craze started.  Go figure.  Eating “out” was a treat, and exciting.  Little packets of ketchup, burgers wrapped in paper.  It was exciting.  Happy Meals were meals that my mom didn’t have to cook.  A treat for everyone.  My first job was at Jack In The Box, which explains my craving for Breakfast Jacks, Lemon Turnovers and Orange Juice.  All in one meal.  I ordered the same thing for years, until the Lemon Turnover went away.  Sadness.

So.  I get it.  We are set up to be happy with shit in a bag, and sad if we don’t get the treats we want.

Fast forward to today.  I had a coupon for a Rally’s in Fresno.  It was totally free, except for $4 and change.  I love saving money.  We went to the drive through, and sat and waited for this grease bomb of a meal, that would satisfy my vague craving for something bad.

I spilled the Diet Coke, which I assured Harley Guy wouldn’t be sticky because there was no sugar.  Then I tasted the drink, and it was the real thing.  I had a lap full of napkins and ketchup, and a bag full of burgers and fries.  And ice all over the floor.

We stopped in the parking lot, because we had this big mess.  I pulled out the thing I had ordered, and the spicy fries that just moments ago I had been coveting.  The bun was greasy.  The fries tasted like deep fried chicken.  And as we sat there, I could see a dumpster with crows sitting on its edges.  The crows, the grease, the mess.  I just couldn’t stomach it for one more minute, and couldn’t wait to dump it and drive away as quickly as we could.

I ached and groaned, thinking of what I’d just put my digestive system through on this rainy Friday afternoon.  I even went and picked up my bib for tomorrow’s 5k.  A few hours went by, and I was fine, but I drank a lot of water today, and tried to cleanse by eating some fruit, some wheat crackers.

A few weeks ago I was running in a nearby town, and I ran by a group of fast food restaurants, and I thought…if someone came from another locale, they would think our country smells just like grease.  It was hard to keep my pace, as I battled nausea from the fumes.

So.  I will not say I will never have fast food.  But, for right now, if I have to drive through anywhere, it’s not happening.  I love to say “There was no food!  We had to stop here!”  It’s time to be a bit more proactive…and stop thinking fast food is FUN.  Because clearly, my body does not think so.

Soul Tacos.

The original Taco Bell design.
Image via Wikipedia

“I’m going to write a blog post about my Mother’s tacos,” I announce to my Mom today.

“What? What’s that you said?” 

“Nothing Mom.  Nothing.”

“No.  I want to know what you said.”

I get up to go and get the laptop because this year at Thanksgiving, I realize I’ve written about running my hometown year after year.  This morning, she says, “I think we will have tacos tonight.” And, my food memory started to percolate.  The tacos of my mother’s.  There is a story.

In the 70’s, there was a Taco Bell across the street from our church.  And in that Taco Bell was a menu.  There were weird things like frijoles, burritos, enchiladas.  And, right next to them were the pronunciations:  (free-ho-les, boo-rhee-toes, en-chee-la-das).  We really didn’t know what Mexican food was.  We grew up in the San Fernando Valley, and while the Hispanic population is now very prolific, we just didn’t know any Mexican people.  There were Jews and Mormons and us.  And, that’s about it.

So, the Mexican food restaurants were few and far between, and we never heard of these meals.  There certainly weren’t things like “Meal D2” that my son yells into the Taco Bell speakers now.  Mexican food was an oddity.

My parents had neighbors Jane and Clarence.  Jane used to fix tacos for her husband in the 60’s, and one night, they fixed them for my mother.  She showed my Mom how to do the taco shells.  The trick, my mother says, is to fold them over in time in the grease.  You must know the exact moment when they will be done, yet not too crispy.  You must have beef, cheese, tomato, onion, lettuce…and a gazillion types of hot sauce.  The weird thing is, as easy as it seems, no one can ever make them like she does.

We even went on a Girl Scout camping trip where my Mom made tacos.  My Dad got an award, that said WOW EIGHT TACOS!  Yeah, the award was shaped like a taco. 

We have rituals about our tacos.  Everything is laid out on the stove in order.  My dad makes one taco.  Eats it.  Rinses and dries his plate before getting another one.  He explains, you must have a clean plate for the next taco.  There are no spoons in the fixings bowls.  You must pick everything up with your fingers.  We don’t have forks.  It’s the way we do it.  My mom has one, then makes a salad out of the rest of the stuff.  They have a beer before the tacos, then wine.  And always, ice water for everyone.

Every Friday for as many years as I can remember, my Mother has made tacos.  Nothing fancy.  No beans.  No salad.  No rice.  No fancy salsas.  Just tacos.  And, as much as the streets and the runs and the schools are all a part of me…these tacos…are the Friday nights of my life.

As I finish with my blog post, I tell my mother “I just wrote a blog post about your tacos.”  She replies:  “Who would want to read about that?”  And in this moment, I realize that the non-special-ness of my mother’s food is what makes it so spectacular.  The regularity.  The comfort. 

The fact that they’re hers.

Bob’s Big Boy is the devil+ a bonus from June ’07

Bob’s Big Boy

The double decker, fries and a shake.  Yes.  This is the post where I blame my crappy run on a trip down memory lane AGAIN.  Here’s a photo of me with Bob himself, yesterday in Torrance CA.

img_0154.jpg I made it a thumbnail, lest you think that is really MY stomach.  It’s my hand.

Anyway, I thought I would take my last trip down memory lane before the trip home, and that’s where we stopped.  Yum.  It was delicious. Worth it?  No.  Couldn’t even do the 3.5 miles with Kim today.  Here are my stats.  At the end, I was just laying in front of the funeral home.  Not a pretty site.  🙂

Date: 2/18/2008 2:30 PM
Type: Easy
Course: South Highland Funeral Home
Distance: 3.39 miles
Duration: 35:00
Pace: 10:20 / mile
Shoe: Asics
Weight: 😦
Weather: Sunny
Notes: Too hot. Not running in the afternoon anymore. Don’t want to wear a hat, too thirsty!!! We walked for 2 of these minutes.
Statistics: Calories: 459
VO2 Max: 28.6

On another note, we stopped in Selma to find the two trees.  Many of my former students will remember the story of my Granny, her Mom and the Hobos in The Great Depression.  You used to be able to see the two trees from Highway 99, but they built a brick wall there, and now you can’t see them.  Gina and I took an hour side trip on the way home.  First to the cemetery, where I found all my relatives.  Then to the house.  Here is the post.  More importantly, here are the Palm Trees. 

I went in the house, and told the owners this story.  They said, they were just thinking of cutting down the palm trees.  I’m going to mail them this story, in hopes that they keep this small part of my family history alive.


my great grandmother…

Selma, CA.  (The red dot on the map)1929.  The Great Depression.granny.jpgThis is my grandmother.This song always reminds me of her.  The Tennesse Waltz, by Patti Page.  01-tennessee-waltz.m4a(Note:  The exact dates may not be correct, and I might have missed some important information, but this is the way I heard the story.)

My great grandmother lived in a house in Selma across from an elementary school.  There are two palm trees in front of the house.  My grandmother, Grace Jensen, was born there in 1904 I think.  When my grandmother was growing up, my great-grandmother used to feed the hobos who were coming through Selma on the trains.  These were people that lived in the times of the Great Depression. (Read about it here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Depression) Hobos in Chicago, 1929

The hobos were men who would stack wood for a meal, or fix your fence, or whatever.  They wanted to work…there was just no work.  My father and I were talking about it this weekend.  The homeless people weren’t like today’s homeless.  These men would go from town to town looking for work.  My grandfather did that.  Riding the rails, hopping in empty box cars.  I remember when we would drive to Fresno from LA, my Dad would always say, “Look in the box car, and see if you see anybody.”  

So, they would knock on my grandmother’s door, and they would ask for a meal.  The way I heard it, my great grandmother would put a meal out on the back steps, and they would eat it outside.  Before they would leave, however, they would put a notch on the palm trees that are in front of the house.   This would tell the next guys that this house was a good house…that you could get food here.

A nice story.  My grandmother was born in the house, and my mother lived there as a young girl.  The palm trees are there still.  If you are driving south on Highway 99, look to the left (north) side of the freeway.  If there are two palm trees across from a school, you’ll be at this place in history.

PS-I just emailed my Mom to see if I got the story correct.  Here is her reply:

YOUR STORY IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE , EVERY LINE. Granny would be so happy you told this as she loved telling how her mother was so kind and giving to the hobos, and her Mother always said so often,”those hobos have a Mother somewhere”. Love, Mom



Date: 2/11/2008 10:45 AM
Type: Easy
Course: South Highland Vera
Distance: 3.22 miles
Duration: 34:00
Pace: 10:34 / mile
Shoe: Asics
Weight:  🙂
Weather: Sunny


I love some Creedence Clearwater.  This song had me feeling pretty good in the first mile of the run.  I went a little further to South Highland.  I’m trying to get over my mind trip of running alone, while Kim recovers from pneumonia.  So, after mile two, I stop for two minutes.  Yes, I counted it in my performance for the day.  As I started running again, all I could think about was the tangerine tree on Vera and 4th street.  I had taken a tangerine the day before after that run, and it was marvelous.  Juice, dripping down my hands, all over me.  Sweat.  You know the drill.  Glorious.

So, after this run, I grabbed two tangerines.  At this point, I realized I’m stealing.  But, hey I figured this homeowner wouldn’t mind.  It started to nag at me.  So, later on in the day I decided I would go apologize and offer her some money for these three tangerines.

I knocked on her door.  I was uuber proud of myself, saying things in my head like, “I’m such a good person.  I know she’ll offer me some more.  No.  No.  I’m a good person.”

After I explained the tangerine steal to this elderly woman, she said, “Oh, no worries.  Whatever tangerines are on the street side are for anyone.”  I didn’t explain that I had to practically scale her fence to get them. 

Anyway, we were getting along so well, I thought I’d ask…”Well, can I bring my ladder over to get the ones on the street side?”

 Her reply:  “No, we don’t want to start that.”

I was humiliated.  Got in my car.  Guess that’s the last of those sweet sweet treats, because there aren’t any more within reach.  What I need is a tall friend…