♥Tacos Alondra: 41-01 Nacional St. Corona, NY 11368♥
♥Telephone Number: 718-505-2525 (FREE DELIVERY)♥
Gooey-yellow cheese-smothered nachos became a standard concession item in North American movie theaters and were then exported around the world along with Hollywood blockbusters. Guacamole meanwhile transcended its Mexican origins with the help of a media blitz by the California avocado growers to associate the snack with the Superbowl. (175)
For a long time, even after befriending Beatriz, I embarrassingly thought the above was a good example of Mexican-ish food. I believed the best nachos were the ones at the Kaufman movie theater in Astoria because it had really great cheese on the nachos. Oh, how blinded I was…Thankfully, the veil has been lifted and I now see the light.
I have known Beatriz Zapata for as long as I can remember. I was the new girl in 3rd grade and so was she. It was like we were destined to be best friends. Just the other day she told me after I told her my dad was obsessed with Jarritos Tamarind drink, that my dad was Mexican in a past life. I laughed and agreed. Then she said how we were destined to be best friends and just as I was about to say “awww” she quickly added, “Your dad and I would’ve been best friends”. I rolled my eyes and smiled at her.
I remember one time in I believe 3rd grade I went to play at her house. (This was before she got her demon dog, appropriately named Midnight. I’m scared of dogs and one time her older sister Rosa tried to jokingly sick Midnight on me. I haven’t really been to her house since…) We changed out of our uniforms into play clothes and just played in her room like normal 8-year-old little girls. Her mom went to go do laundry around the corner so we went with her. We were playing in the laundromat when we hear her mother gasp. We turned around to see her hold not one but two school uniforms. We looked at each other puzzled. Realization hits me and I start laughing. She had washed my uniform along with Beatriz’s uniform! We all fell into a fit of laughter.
I walked off of the 7 train at the 103rd stop and looked around. No Beatriz. Confused I decided to call her. She told me to walk the way to her house and stop after two blocks. I found her, not from her directions, but from her 2year old Sammy crying. I walked into the little food stand and smiled at her and her mom. It was time to begin. As I put my bookbag down and shed my coat I observed as Gloria (Beatriz’s mom) cook the food. I noticed that she shared her restaurant stand with a convenience store. She asked me if I was hungry and at first, I declined, as I had just had a rather big lunch when I got home hours before, but when I saw her preparing the food my mouth began to water. I swallowed and my stomach grumbled. Well, I thought, I guess a bite to eat wouldn’t hurt.
Her mother presented us our meals in a “fancy” style and we giggled as Beatriz, called her “cheese bae”. As I was about to start taking pictures Beatriz asked me if I wanted salsa verde or salsa roja. Not being a fan of the spicy or rather too spicy I went with the salsa verde. Beatriz squeezed the salsa verde on the quesadilla and cut it for the pictures. I was glad I came when I did because as I left the interview people began to pour in, mostly parents picking up kids from the local schools like St. Leo’s around the block. But, during our interview, it was just us. Beatriz hadn’t told her mother much about this project, just that she’d be interviewed and Gloria agreed to be on camera. At first, Gloria thought this was for a contest or something so she tried to keep presenting the dishes all fancy so I could “win first”. Beatriz laughed and explained what the project really was.
We did the interview before eating but I wanted to show the food and place first to give a feel of what it was like being there. As you can see in the picture below the store is divided and can be seen in the background. Though Gloria’s kitchen space is small and for that day it was just her the food I had tasted amazing. Better than somethings I have had at larger restaurants. The best thing for me was that it didn’t give me any acid reflux. Sidenote, I’ve developed acid reflux over the years but it seems my eating of Mexican food recently has made me have it even more so than usual. It actually makes me really sad because I greatly enjoy eating Mexican food and though I take antiacids to help ease my throat pain sometimes it isn’t enough. But, when having Gloria’s food I was not only happy to be having such a delicious meal but I was happy that my throat was at ease.
I have linked in about 5 article reviews from my previous assignments that I find relevant to this one, like “Where did the Taco come from?”, 143 English words that are actually Spanish, Taco Mahal, the article on Shawarma, and the map from Tacopedia.
While I videotaped Gloria and Beatriz talking I thought back to those articles, especially the one about Taco Mahal. A family run business where you cook food from your homeland and try to be as authentic as possible for the sake of your customers as well as yourself. To best remember what it tasted like when you were younger before coming to America. So you try to recreate that taste to get a semblance of taste memories back. I find it quite touching because it is something to pass onto to the future generations.
Tortillas de maíz (Corn Tortillas): A type of thin, unleavened flatbread, made from finely ground maize (corn).
I watched and filmed as Gloria prepared the mouth-watering dish below (that Beatriz would be eating) as she explained her cooking process:
For the quesadillas, we put meat, cheese, lettuce, and just a little bit of cream…they are made with corn tortillas or wheat tortillas, depending on how you like it.
She just started Tacos Alondra 2 years ago. She works most of the day but she has other employees who make deliveries and make everything by hand. She prepares the food but she has other people working the grill too. Many people know Gloria from her previous job on 82nd street so they come looking for her. It’s all “networking” as Beatriz puts it.
I asked Beatriz about what it was like in regards to their connection with their food from Puebla and how they were able to keep that connection when coming to New York:
A lot of Mexican food I feel is popular everywhere especially in New York and the United States so we were kind of lucky to have that popularity already established. People were just looking for authentic food. So, my parents just saw an opportunity and took it. They were able to exploit that (in a good sense of the word)…they were able to use it to their advantage because they already knew about it. They knew about the cuisine since they first came but also since they’re from there [Puebla, Mexico]…so it’s just like cooking for a larger crowd essentially. Like cooking for your family but for a larger crowd.
I asked if they tried to recreate, as best they could, the dishes from back home. Beatriz nodded and said yes as she showed me the imported goods they get from Mexico like,
Chile de árbol (Tree chili): These chilis are about 5 to 7.5 cm (2.0 to 3.0 in) long, and 0.65 to 1 cm (0.26 to 0.39 in) in diameter. Their heat index is between 15,000 – 30,000 Scoville units. The peppers start out green and turn a bright red color as they mature. Chile de árbol peppers can be found fresh, dried, or powdered. As dried chiles, they are often used to decorate wreaths because they do not lose their red color after dehydration.
Gloria mentioned that they were very spicy and Beatriz said that they were able to get them through from Mexico because they were dried.
FUN FACT: Limes in the US are larger than they are in Mexico. In Mexico, they are about half the size!
Queso hebra (Oaxaca Cheese): It is a white, semi-hard cheese from Mexico, similar to unaged Monterey Jack, but with a mozzarella-like string cheese texture.It is named after the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, where it was first made. It is available in several different shapes. The production process involves stretching the cheese into long ribbons and rolling it up like a ball of yarn. It is widely used in quesadillas and empanadas.
FUN FACT: Chicken and beef go with green sauce (salsa verde!) while pork and everything else goes with red sauce (salsa roja)!
They also showed me a version chicharrónes that was like an orange/yellow wheel snack called “duros de harina” which is basically a popular Mexican snack food made of puffed wheat and flavored with chili and lime.
Durros de harina: (also known as pasta para duros, duritos, durros, pasta para durito, chicharrónes, churritos, Mexican wagon wheels or pinwheels):
When cooked, duros have a light, airy consistency similar to chicharrones. Although both foods contain comparable amounts of fat, chicharrones contain more protein while duros are mainly carbohydrates, as they consist of wheat flour, with added cornstarch, salt, and baking soda to aid even expansion during cooking. Duros are sometimes sold by street vendors. Duros can also be purchased in their uncooked form in many Mexican grocery stores; they are made in 1-inch-square pieces and round wagon wheel shapes, but they also come in many various sizes of strips and squares.
Jarritos: A popular brand of soft drink in Mexico, founded in 1950 by Don Francisco “El Güero” Hill. Jarritos is made in fruit flavors and is more carbonated than popular soft drinks made in the United States or Canada. Many Jarritos varieties are naturally flavored. The word jarrito means “little jug” in Spanish and refers to the Mexican tradition of drinking water and other drinks in clay pottery jugs.Jarritos comes in 12.5 and 20-ounce glass and plastic as well as 1.5-liter bottles.
Sidral Mundet: A Mexican apple-flavored carbonated soft drink produced by FEMSA S.A de C.V and distributed in the United States by the Novamex company, which also distributes the Jarritos and Sangria Señorial soda brands.
Most American families in the United States now buy tortillas the same way as Americans—-from a grocery store, prefabricated, cardboard imposters riddled with preservatives to ensure a shelf life. Even those Mexicans who do make them must buy the masa from a local Mercado, where creating masa—once so crucial to Mexican identity that it was said a woman wasn’t suitable for marriage unless she knew how to make a tortilla from nixtamalization to placing it in the wicker—has been reduced to machines and automatons. (199)
Doing this interview was cool not only because I got to eat awesome food but because I got to see my best friend and her mom. Being there was like being a kid again. I got to watch the process of making quesadillas and tacos up close and personal. It was a wonderful experience.
Arellano, Gustavo. Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. Scribner, 2013.
Chile De Árbol. 14 February 2018.
Friesen, Katy June. “Where Did the Taco Come From?” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 3 May 2012.
Holtz, Déborah, and Juan Carlos Mena. Tacopedia. Phaidon Press Limited, 2015.
Jordan, John Erik. “143 English Words That Are Actually Spanish.” The Babbel Magazine, Babbel.com, http://www.babbel.com/en/magazine/english-words-actually-spanish.
Markel-Gonzalez, Sara. “Chicharrón Preparado: Where to Find It in Queens.” Serious Eats, 2010.
Pilcher, Jeffrey M. Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food. Oxford University Press, 2017.
Saxena, Sparshita. “Taco Mahal: A New York-Based Eatery That Dishes Out Indo-Mexican Food with Flair.” NDTV Food, 6 May 2017.
Watson, Katy. “Sharwarma: Taco Al Pastor’s Culinary Ancestor.” BBC News, BBC, 2 September 2015.