Above: Esthercita´s portrait from her elementary school certificate (Agujita, Coahuila, Mexico, 1939)
In this and my two previous posts (click highlighted text for Part 1 and Part 2), I would like to share some of my mom’s stories and recipes from her childhood in Agujita, a small mining town in the Mexican state of Coahuila; when I myself was a child, I heard these and many other anecdotes, sitting with my mom in her kitchen, which filled my imagination with picturesque scenes of Mexico (and other countries) and inspired me to always strive to move forward, and never stop learning. Thank you, mom!
My mom was always a curious girl; when she was six years old, she saw several of her older friends from the neighbourhood walking with their parents, heading in the same direction, and when she asked where they were all going, they replied “to register for school, come join us!” Now, back in the day, seven years was considered the optimum age to start elementary school, but that did not stop my mom from following her friends and registering herself for the new school year! Her mom was very surprised afterwards, but it did not seem too radical since she had managed to register without fuss, so she allowed her to attend. She was a diligent student, and continued her elementary school in Agujita, helping with chores at home, and with three younger siblings by the time she was ten. Esthercita graduated from elementary school with flying colours, as shown in her final report card from 1939:
Although my mom´s parents were both Japanese, breakfast was served Agujita style, every school day, regardless of whether it was fall, winter or spring: scrambled eggs with chorizo, beans, tortillas (usually wheat flour) and two large enameled pitchers, one with freshly brewed coffee, and the other filled with hot milk. Each person at the table could fix their own breakfast plate, and their own cup of café con leche (coffee and milk, proportions to taste.)
My mom continued her mom´s chorizo and eggs breakfast tradition, but because we lived in Mexico City – at some point the largest city in the world – everything had to be done in the fast lane; instead of enjoying breakfast at the table, more than a few times some eggs and chorizo were scooped inside a tortilla (wheat or corn), rolled, and wrapped in a paper napkin; I would eat my taco while waiting for the school bus outside our apartment building.
The breakfast taco is a true classic across the USA-Mexico border. Both the Southern American state of Texas, and the Northern Mexican state of Coahuila, have their own versions of the same delightful tortilla filled with chorizo and scrambled eggs. The following recipe has the nostalgic elements of my grandma’s desayuno norteño – Northern (Mexico) style breakfast – and my mom’s school-bus-stop tacos, but has been transformed again, catering to my vegetarian daughter, and our love for mayonnaise.
Vegetarian Breakfast Tacos –
Tacos vegetarianos de huevo
1/3 lb (150 g) approx. vegetarian chorizo or any other Mexican style vegetarian sausage
1 tbsp vegetable oil
¼ cup milk (any kind, even water will do in a pinch)
4 corn tortillas
Toppings (prepare first): shredded lettuce, sliced avocado, chopped onions
Bottled red sauce, such as Cholula™ or Red Hot™ (optional)
I used a Chipotle flavoured sausage that was really tasty:
I sliced two sausages, and since they had very little fat, as most vegetarian sausages, I added a little vegetable oil to the pan before frying them. Meanwhile, the eggs were beaten with the milk, and when the sausage discs were lightly crisped on both sides, I poured the egg mixture in, stirring and flipping, and breaking the eggs into chunks until firm:
Once the eggs were almost ready, I warmed up the tortillas (45 seconds in my microwave oven, for four tortillas). I divided the filling amongst the tortillas, then topped with lettuce, avocado, onions and mayonnaise. These sausages were spicy, so I skipped the hot sauce. I rolled each taco tightly and served, nice and hot, with a glass of orange juice; of course a mug of café con leche would have been great, as well. I could not help wrapping one in a paper napkin, for old times´ sake, even though we ate them at home.
NOTE: After her elementary school graduation, my mom attended a boarding school in Japan, and then spent WWII there with relatives and friends. She went back to Mexico as a young adult after the war was over.