Some foodstuffs will not be worked with. Oh, chefs'll claim that a particular cheese or fruit or vegetable can be transformed with a little culinary wizardry, and that is true, and the result is often delicious and surprising.
But the question is this: What food nearly stands alone in being transformable enough to suit every palate, every hankering, every whim? It is the taco of which we speak, of course, an edible wonder that can wear a thousand coats -- or, rather, have a thousand different fillings -- and never be the same taco twice.
Guacamole, ice cream sundaes, seven-layer dip, and salsa: Don't be sore. You're absolutely in the thousand-different-ways pantheon of goodies, too.
Oct. 4 is National Taco Day, oh yes it is, but some would claim that is every day, and we would agree. Tacos are the perfect food, whether carne asada, calabacitas, fried apples, bacon, veges, or anything happens to be inside the shell/wrap/tortilla.
Where do you go for yours around Southern California? Why not try...
Homegirl Cafe: You can swap out your tortilla for a grilled nopal -- mmm -- and you can enjoy three tacos for ten bucks. Selections include red mole chicken, jorja's (sauteed hibiscus flowers), and a classic pork carnitas with an apple-flecked slaw. Are you still thinking about the nopal. Mmm, we say again.
Mariscos Jalisco: One of the beloved standards of Southern California tacodom, totally and completely. Everyone goes for the shrimp, so you should, too, if that's your thing. Or order what you like. Find the Mariscos truck or make for the Olympic Boulevard location.
Mercado: There's now a second spot for this Santa Monica standard -- #2 is at Third & Fairfax, or just west -- and regulars talk about the deliciousness of the Tacos de Pescado Estilo Baja. That beer batter? It's Carta Blanca, oh yeah. A chile de arbol aioli is involved, too.