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Cooking for Art School: Tacos

Tacos are harder to make than you might imagine.

By F+

illustration by Alex Kostiw

illustration by Alex Kostiw

Although art students are known for being creative, cooking is not the first thing that comes to mind when non-artists imagine an art student. For me personally, dinner most nights consists of Kraft macaroni and cheese. This usually takes place at about 9 p.m. when I finally look up from my painting and realize I haven’t eaten since lunch.

For some, “cooking” simply means defrosting a frozen TV dinner. For others, it’s making something simple like scrambled eggs or a basic salad. But making art is creative, and cooking is creative; therefore, I should be able to succeed at both. Right?

This is the idea behind Sunday dinner with my friends, dubbed “The Squid Squad,” which became a major ritual in my life. We all figured we needed a time during the week where we would hang out, the eight of us, no matter what. Meals have ranged from spaghetti, to homemade mac-and-cheese, to breakfast foods, to chicken and dumplings, depending on the cook.

Last Sunday, it was my turn. Hoping to impress my friends, I have often taken on the role of cook at Sunday dinner. I’m not sure why I continuously feel the need to make things I have previously never made in my life; it’s a little beyond me. Last Sunday’s dinner was supposed to be tacos. Ultimately, I dubbed the dish “not-quite-tacos.”

I went back to my home in the suburbs this past weekend and purchased all my groceries there. On the train ride back, armed with three and a half pounds of ground beef, in addition to all the toppings in a cooler bag, I knew I was ready.

The Americanized recipe for the tacos made is quite simple:

  1. Acquire ground beef, seasoning, and toppings.
  2. Acquire a pan to cook said ground beef in, and a bowl to store it in.
  3. Brown the ground beef in the pan.
  4. Cut up all the other ingredients – tomatoes, lettuces, avocado – whatever your heart desires.
  5. Cry a little when you realize you cannot brown meat.
  6. Call your friend Morgan’s mom when you realize you have no idea how one browns ground beef
  7. Realize you cannot possibly brown three and a half pounds of meat at once. Brown one pound at a time instead, with a sad half-pound in the final browning phase.
  8. Admit to yourself that you’ve spent almost an hour browning meat, and it is now all cold.
  9. Attempt to cover the meat with the seasoning.
  10. Split the meat into two batches, and put one batch in the pan with two thirds a cup of water and the taco seasoning mix.
  11. Push everything around until most of the meat is covered in sauce, then realize this has all taken so long that you don’t have time for it to fully thicken; settle on having a runny sauce.
  12. Repeat Step 11 with the rest of the meat.
  13. Console yourself by smothering your sad taco meat with as many toppings as possible. Your basic cheese, lettuce, tomato, green onion, avocado, salsa, and sour cream are recommended in ample doses.
  14. Eat three tacos in rapid succession to make up for the difficult times you’ve just endured.

Although this attempt wasn’t, in some ways, successful, it was ultimately pretty delicious. Whether or not I would recommend this recipe is debatable, as it did come with an excessive amount of trauma.

To better prepare this recipe for the future, I would suggest knowing, first and foremost, how to brown meat. If this simple skill is already acquired, the process of actually browning the meat, adding the taco seasoning, and assembling the tacos with the necessary ingredients will run more smoothly.

Prior knowledge and preparation are helpful for any meal; however, college does not always prepare us to cook. Sometimes you have to simply experiment with the materials (known by non-art students as “ingredients”) on hand.



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