There are only a few times when I'm guaranteed to be an easy sell. Most times I prefer to wander through stores, unencumbered by other people's opinions, poking around, reading labels and generally entirely independent.
The times when I am an easy sell?? There are only three. When I'm shopping for jeans, when the salesperson has a strong Southern drawl and right after I've been for a run.
Shopping for jeans is notoriously awful. With a gazillion different styles for twice as many different bodies, it's close to impossible to purchase jeans without a little help, unless you've resigned yourself to trying on the greater part of the store. The downside? Having to leave the dressing room to a chorus of salesgirls singing "How cuuuuuuuuttte!!". I'm pretty sure there's not a semblance of sincerity when every pair I try on evokes the same choral array of ooh's and aah's. I fall for it every time... it's beyond my control.
Now Southern drawls... this one is a mystery to me. Some of my more painful middle school memories involve teachers, voices sugary sweet and thickly Southern, cooing condescending remarks to the students. "Miss Jesse, you seem to have confused latitude and longitude, therefore you have made a zero on this assignment. But sweetheart, I'd just loooove it if you'd do the entire assignment over for partial credit!" Perhaps it's unfair, but I link that accent to insincerity. Ironically that very same insincere-to-me accent has led to my being the proud owner of:
-tickets to the fireman's ball
-subscriptions to a variety of useless magazines
-one raffle ticket for airfare to the Bahamas
I once even invited a door to door magazine salesman in for a glass of water and some pie. That's how charmed I was, despite the fact that his accent was vaguely reminiscent of my junior high math teacher, who no doubt, made middle school just that much more unbearable. It's a mystery to me, but let me tell you, you got some ocean front property in Iowa and a Southern drawl? I'm your girl.
The final way to dupe me into a sure purchase of something perhaps useless, something perhaps without merit, or occasionally something that turns out to be a diamond in the rough, is to catch me after a run. I don't mean like three hours after a run. I mean, in all of my sweaty, out of breath and thirsty glory, within 30 minutes after a run. There's some sort of elated brain fog I experience where I'm open to all sorts of suggestion. Or perhaps I'm just hungry? I usually grocery shop right after my runs, since I'm out anyway. I actually had to stop going to one particular grocery store after running because I'm friends with the manager of the cheese section. He would ply me with cheeses, chocolates and all manner of dairy products. The last time I was there I left with $14 worth of butter... and at that point I decided I needed to cut myself off from that store. My fridge is packed with uneaten chutneys and jams, syrups and grains... all from similar such shopping excursions.
Well, the power of suggestion reared its ugly head last week to the tune of pumpkin flavored tortillas. There I was, wandering aimlessly down the frozen foods aisle, in a post-running haze. I was stopped in my tracks by a tortilla being waved under my nose. I demurely looked away with a no thank you. "Are you sure, it's pumpkin..." I whipped around to see a deep orange disc being waved in my direction. I'm no sucker for squash varietals... but I am a sucker for a hot homemade tortilla, rich with spices, and this baby was made while I was standing there. One bite and I was reeling, in a good way. I'm still not sure if the tortilla actually tastes like pumpkin, despite the fact that its label boasts it as the second ingredient. No, it's heady with pumpkin pie spices. You know the ones... ginger, cinnamon allspice... all swimming around in a warm rich tortilla. Well, I walked away munching my tortilla with the resolve of a soldier. I was determined not to be swayed by this orange seductress, this pumpkin tortilla. But no sooner did I turn my head than the woman warming the tortillas said, "November only!". November ONLY???!? Screw one bag of tortillas, should I buy them all? Panic set in and I settled on a bag of 20, knowing full well this were a wee bit too adventurous for Mark, so eating these is a solo venture.
I plotted the fillings the entire way home. Something subtle and fresh, nothing that would overpower the tortilla, but certainly something that would balance the holiday spices... I settled on my Rancho Gordo vaquero beans, my new second favorite bean of all time, after the Ojo de Cabra. I seasoned them just enough... because honestly, these beans have a sweetness and buttery-ness all their own. I added some salty cheese and a spicy, vinegar-y cabbage salad... and ohmigod. So delicious. Now don't be sad if you can't find pumpkin tortillas in your area, they're made by a local company called Paqui Tortillas. However, I think making your own pumpkin tortillas would be a cinch... just add pumpkin, ginger, allspice, cloves and a pinch of cinnamon to tortilla dough.
I have to say though, the real star of the taco, so to speak, was the cabbage salad. It's piquant, spicy crispiness really bound the flavors together. More importantly, this is a recipe I would use with anything... on nachos, enchiladas, even sprinkled over tortilla soup. It completely lightens up a heavy Mexican meal. Why not give it a whirl?
Pumpkin Spiced Tacos
1 1/2 cups dried black beans or vaquero beans
1/2 onion, diced
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
Water to cover the beans by 2-3 inches
Salt to taste
Soak the beans overnight. Place in a pot with onions and oregano and fill with water, about 2-3 inches above the beans. Bring to a rapid boil and let boil for about 10 mins. Lower to a simmer and cook till almost done, about 30-45 mins. Salt to taste and cook for another 15 mins, until beans are done.
Spicy Cabbage Salad
Adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters
1 small heads of cabbage, sliced finely into strips
6 green onions, whites only, sliced finely into circles
1/6 cup white onion, sliced into fine strips
2 jalapenos, veins and seeds removed and diced
3/4 cup cilantro, shredded
Juice of one lime
3-4 tsp white wine vinegar
1/3-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Combine all chopped vegetables together in a bowl and toss conservatively with the liquids. Add extra vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for about an hour to allow flavors to meld.
To assemble tacos:
Tortillas (preferably pumkin)
Spicy cabbage salad
Ricotta salata, feta or cotija cheese
Top a warmed tortilla with beans, shaved ricotta salata and that spicy, tasty cabbage salad. Eat, and eat and eat and eat... Yum!