It's not every day you get to make up a word, and I think I made up this one: “clovering”—I don't think it's a word. It is now. Earlier, I was looking up the different versions of Kurt Weill's “September Song” (so many great renditions of that song, often with widely varying lyrics), and I saw this one version on a website that included the line, “Will the clovering last 'til you reach September?” I thought, that's beautiful—but now I'm not sure it's not a typo! Earlier in the song there's something about a “clover ring”—which is what? A ring with a jewelry rendition of a clover, given for good luck? Or the childhood thing of making a very temporary ring by twisting together clover? Either way, clover is a symbol of luck, four leaf clover more so (I have a four leaf clover that my grandfather gave me taped the the headstock of my acoustic guitar). Anyway, later in the song, I'm wondering if “covering” isn't supposed to be “clover ring” again—or did Kurt Weill make up the word clovering—I guess it's something I can research further, or maybe someone can tell me. Either way, I'm going to consider it a word, now, meaning a covering of clover, to protect the ground, to nourish the bees, and wide open for metaphor. My dictionary (I love using a real, physical one) says In The Clover means “in pleasant circumstances.” Of course, down the page, the next world after clover and its various forms is clown.
I'm writing this memo today because I haven't written one all summer, and now it's fall, today being the autumnal equinox, and probably the occasion of me writing something or other every year. Also, I'm making some changes on this website. In my life there are few changes—I'm still working in a full time job and still working on a full time novel and still suffering from song writing writer's block. But my new ambitious positive project for fall is to try to get back to writing about food, and this time, specifically, try to get back to writing about establishments serving Mexican related food. Or, if you will, for short, tacos.
I realize that returning to a project that once was, but failed, often is folly, but I'm still going to try. So to complete this memo today, I'm going to reprint the introduction to this new project, below, and then later post it on the new Taco page, which is under the subject tab called LUNCH (which refers to food in all its forms). Happy next season to everyone, moving on or not, with hopes that prosperity in some form is clovering your world.
Randy Russell, 23 September 2019
A few years back a friend suggested we try to eat at all the Mexican restaurants in Milwaukee, and while that project fell by the wayside, or never really became a project, I got excited about the idea and never could let it go, even though I'm far from the person for the job. I am not an expert, not a foodie, not Mexican, don't even speak Spanish, not a Milwaukee native, I'm a poor researcher, a worse organizer, have no funding, no car, half an appetite, and as a Celiac, I can't even get to the bottom of any cuisine, except for gluten-free cuisine. Yet, I'm still really excited about the idea, so is there a point at which enthusiasm can make up for all the other shortcomings? Personally, I think so—I'm consistently enamored with stuff that has a big heart, even when it fails on other levels. Or sometimes because it fails, or when it fails because its heart so large it sinks it like a cargo of sentimental rocks.
My favorite Mexican restaurant in Milwaukee was a little place in a smaller shopping plaza called The Happy Chicken, over on Greenfield across from the Blue Kangaroo. (I also just love saying “across from the Blue Kangaroo!”) I only ate there a few times, and it was subtly magical, but it's long gone now. But that's the memory that I'm after—not to replicate it, of course, but to find another place that has so much good going on you almost can't believe it's true. Of course, a place doesn't have to achieve mythical status to be great, and I love places that are just good, and I love the not so good ones even, because there's always something fascinating about a food-making establishment on some level. Two nice things about Mexican food—one is that at its very worst it's still usually delicious, and also cheap, and it's also one of the world cuisines that is naturally gluten-free in a lot of its forms: tacos with corn tortillas, corn, rice, beans, and most of the meat preparations just bypass wheat altogether. Burritos, no, but oh, well, I didn't ask for this genetic dietary disposition, I'm just dealing with it best I can. Anyway, at one point I did set out to visit and taste all of Milwaukee's Mexican food, and I very much failed on every level. Well, I ate a lot, wrote a few things, but eventually the writing part just fell by the wayside. So this is a new beginning, and even though I realize all of the shortcomings I listed, I'm once again excited about trying again.
As with any kind of project like this, part of the fun, and definitely a necessity, is creating a kind of declaration of principals—along with parameters, rules, boundaries, and borders—all those things that will soon be broken, crossed, and revised. My first idea is to not be too ambitious in what I try to cover—that is, each time I visit a place to write about, don't try to do a comprehensive thing, but rather just write about a single aspect or experience, something about the visit or the meal, one paragraph, two or three hundred words. Then, if I visit the place again, I can write about more. The next part of that is to go right home and write about it, and post it that day or the next. That's the best way to write about anything, but easier said than done, sometimes. We shall see! And then, the final defining thing at this point is: What I'm covering—and I'm making this the widest possible definition of “Mexican” food, which is any place that serves tacos or otherwise Mexican influenced food, whether or not it's a Mexican restaurant, and regardless of any degree of authenticity. Also, I'm going to include everything from small solo restaurants to large chains, and also bars, coffee shops, grocery stores, and food carts and trucks. Maybe even the next door neighbor who happens to be running an illegal taco franchise out of their kitchenette.