Taco Therapy

When a relationship goes south, you can take solace while cooking for one

Relationships ... the hardest work we ever have to do. Getting into them is child's play by comparison. But learning how to resolve them in a fundamental way can make us ravenous, or leave us empty and wanting nothing.

If the former, you will want the following:

  • 1/2 pound boneless, roasted prime rib, shredded (saved from a more social occasion)
  • 1 ripe tomato, diced
  • 1 small onion, shredded
  • 1/2 cup shredded white Vermont sharp cheddar
  • 1/2 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 4 taco shells
  • 3/4 cup of your favorite salsa
  • 1/4 cup crisp bacon (saved from a Sunday breakfast)
  • 1 can, refried beans (canned, but who cares?)
  • 1 bottle, favorite wine (splurge)
Open the wine. In my case, a Louis Jadot Gevrey-Chambertin '03. OK ... so it has been an important relationship. Let breathe. Breathing is good. Remove the frozen shredded prime rib and the little baggie of frozen bacon. Defrost both in the microwave you salvaged from the second ex.

Have a glass of wine.

In a small skillet, rebrown the bacon pieces and, as Gibby Ronstadt taught you, mix the refried beans and a little of your fave salsa; grate a small handful of cheese into mix. Stir. Let bubble at very low heat. In a small saucepan--you are cooking for one, after all--brown the onion in a little of the bacon grease, and throw in the shredded prime rib. Add three tablespoons of your favorite salsa and mix. Let sit on a low flame, stirring occasionally, to cook off liquid.

Dice the tomato and avocado, and grate the remaining cheese. Ready four taco shells. A small pie pan from a previous Thanksgiving dinner works well to contain the taco shells. It might be time for another glass of wine. Check the phone for messages. Put on some K.T. Oslin, Trisha Yearwood or Rupert Wainwright, depending on your mood. Maybe all three. No Patsy Cline, and no Natalie Cole. Louder is often better. Reassure the dogs.

Layer the shells with shredded, spiced beef, tomatoes and avocado; drench with salsa. Pack shredded cheese on top. Pre-heat toaster oven (who needs the big one, after all?) to 350 degrees. Stir bean mixture, and remove from heat. Pop taco-filled pie tin (which once hosted a painstakingly and lovingly homemade pumpkin pie) into the toaster oven.

Wash dishes and utensils, and put into dishwasher. Sneak a cigarette even though you quit smoking four months ago. Don't ask why there are still cigarettes at the house. Crush it out after three puffs of intense self-loathing. Feed the dogs. Finish your second glass of wine.

In five minutes, remove the tacos from the toaster oven. Spoon Gibby's beans onto the one remaining plate you have from the days with your first ex. Arrange the tacos around the beans in a pleasing fashion. Eschew paper towels for one of the unironed, monogrammed linen ones jammed into a drawer.

Decide, halfway through, you might as well take a picture of the plate against the artbox construction you are working on. You can't eat anymore anyway, and the leftovers will be handy tomorrow. Take the pics; wrap the plate up, and refrigerate.

Have no more wine.

Consider concluding e-mails, but don't send yet. Contemplate the wisdom of having not spoken with your therapist for six weeks.

Get coffee stuff ready for the morning. Go outside and walk the dogs. Have a little no-sugar dark chocolate your third sorta-ex introduced you to ... let the squares dissolve on your tongue as you watch the constellation that reminds you of a hand. Go back inside and put some Etta James on, and crank it up! Take a shower. Brush and love the dogs. Sleep well.

See? Easy! Well, the tacos, anyway.

From the Mailbag

To Dave and Judy S.: Thanks for another note that made me smile. We'll have to share some 'dogs soon!

To Anon: Yes, that is an interesting suggestion about what to do with my whisk. But I'd have to throw it away.

To Donald Z: Great to hear from you, and the book about MFK sounds terrific! I'll get back to you about our lunch that cloudy day.

To M: Thanks (?) for the inspiration. It was a great meal, and you helped me understand a complex recipe. I am indebted.