Viva la fajita

iCheeseHoly lactose intolerance! said I to myself as I suddenly halted in my kitchen.
A huge plastic bowl, brimming with a two-toned blend of shredded cheddar and jack, sat warping my kitchen table and intimidating the guests. There had to be eight pounds of it in there. If someone had carved a life-sized calf out of cheese, then shredded it, it would not have matched this. Enthralling.
On a recent bright Saturday, we were hosting a small family lunch to celebrate Dolly’s First Communion. Everything was great–the house was clean, everyone looked nice, the beer was icing, and lunch was arriving. The stars had eased into alignment.
Actually, lunch was the only part of the constellation we weren’t sure of. We had asked Dolly’s opinion, and the chance to pick lunch spun her into a tirade of pleading for fajitas. Not sure why she was stuck on the idea, and neither was she, but no matter.
With good cooks around, we usually don’t cater. It can be expensive and risky. Plus, we avoid too many leftovers, which becomes tiresome for both my palate and my ears (“Hot roast beef sandwiches, again?! Awwww, maaaann…”).
But when we thought on it, we decided “Great idea!” Because it was! No cooking! Easy clean up! And fun, too. Since half of our guests were grade-school kids, and we all like this kind of thing, it was a win all around.
Or so I thought.
Just ordering proved challenging. Our order was too small, or they were either booked or way too costly (a mortgage payment is a bit much to ask). Our southeastern Pennsylvania hometown isn’t overpopulated with southwestern-specializing caterers.
But perseverance rewarded. Relieved, we told them our story and worked out a menu that, on paper, was about right. And just to make sure, at the last moment we added an extra taco platter. Better a little too much, we reasoned, than not enough.
But, instead of the “couple of dozen family members” my wife described, the caterer apparently heard “couple of dozen football players.” We unpacked super-sized platters, and what we eventually realized were double orders of everything else that went with them. Salsa, cheese, hot sauce, tortillas, dips, all of it. There seemed to be enough for an entire week of training camp.
To make it even better, the sight of this bounty somehow shorted the hunger impulses in most of the guests. Hardly anyone ate. Few would even take anything home. We guilted my brother-in-law into taking a couple of meals’ worth of stuff, and we found out later he went to another party and fed eight of his friends.
So, it was up to us. I actually lost count of how many fajitas I ate. The kids got school lunches in tortillas every day that week. I told them to stop asking what was going to be for dinner. On more than one occasion, I swore I heard them bickering in Spanish.
Eventually, we got through it with taste buds intact, and none the worse from it. The jalapeño taste wore off. We had to think about dinner again. Routine resumed.
Buddy’s birthday is coming up in a few weeks. We’ll make him the same offer we made Dolly. He’ll probably just ask his grandmothers to cook.

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