Thursday, March 19, 2009

Culinary Corner

My auto mechanic's shop is located in West L.A. on Sepulveda Boulevard between Venice and Washington. If you know L.A., that means something to you in a geographic sense.

I love the shorthand of these citified geographical markers. Think about what it means to someone when you talk about a city. Take Manhattan - location on Name Avenue between two numbered streets. Or Seattle's peculiar yet logical system of numbering streets and avenues - the intersection of Something Avenue Northwest and Something Street North paints a perfect picture in my mind that's completely different from Something Avenue Southeast and Something Street South. Or New Orleans' totally unique directional markers. Those numbers, that name, create for many people a vivid impression, a world, a universe.

How amazing our shared human experience is, distilled down to civic language. Five centuries hence, will humans bond when hearing that a fellow soul hung out on Asteroid Six, Quadrant Three, Culdesac Twelve in the little joint on the corner? Probably. I don't doubt it one bit.

In the solar system that is L.A., the corner of Sepulveda and Washington is such a corner. Because it is home to a culinary establishment that is part of Los Angeles' collective memory.

Everyone's been to Tito's Tacos.

Crispy fried tacos, served on greasy white pleated paper, filled with non-descript shredded beef, iceberg lettuce and grated orange cheese, come in a brown cardboard box filled up with chips and a cup of blandish, tomatoey salsa.

This is not authentic Mexican food - this is American Mexican food, adapted for American palates back in the forties or fifties, to feed the migrants from the great Midwest who came here to make airplanes or get out of that small town or break into the movies. It's the stuff of memory for many people who grew up in L.A., whose mothers brought them here. Or whose fathers rode their bikes here as kids. Or who came here after school. Or between bar-hopping - Titos serves till 11:30.

The line at the order window spills out onto the sidewalk. You wait and order and then step aside so someone else can order. You can rub elbows with secretaries, rock stars, landscapers and Google employees.

But for someone who didn't grow up here? The appeal eludes first. But then you get your order.

Greasy fried tacos? Eaten outside, at a picnic table, while the tame sparrows hop beneath the benches and you can overhear someone bitching about their boss at the salon? I can totally get into that!


KBeau said...

How could anything be better than that?

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

I wondered recently if Tito's Tacos was still there. It was like coming home reading this post. I can feel the grease on my finger tips, and my belly is warm. Mmmmmm.

mo.stoneskin said...

I love tacos. And in the sun, on a tacky outside table, oh, wow.

Thing is, right now I'm pumped full of stew, but tomorrow I will be fighting temptation all day long...

Woman in a Window said...

The community of it. Ya, I'd like it too.

KathyR said...

I haven't been for many years. But in my younger days, I'd sometimes go there for a taco and salsa breakfast. Nothing better on a hung-over morning.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I used to live in Santa Monica--on 15th St. between Wilshire and Montana. I know exactly what you mean
about the shorthand.

Great interview over at Motherscribe. You are 10 years older than me, but that 10 years makes a big difference in what we saw firsthand of the feminist movement.