The disappointments were stacking up yesterday morning by the time I took my huevos rancheros back to the car. For reasons I couldn’t explain, I wanted a plate of warm, airy beignets dusted with powdered sugar. Maybe all the talk of Mardi Gras had made me miss New Orleans. I don’t know. Whatever the reason, I knew I could get them at Johnny’s Half Shell. What I didn’t know is that I could get them only til 9:30. I was a good 30 minutes late.
So I ducked behind the Half Shell and ordered a to-go box of huevos rancheros from Taqueria Nacional.
When I got to the car, I opened the container and stared at its contents, disappointment dripping from every pore: a puddle of refried beans on one side, and a pile of scrambled eggs on the other. A handful of shredded cheese had been sprinkled over a fraction of the eggs, while the salsa was buried somewhere underneath the cooked yellow curds. If I couldn’t have a taste of Crescent City, I at least wanted a greasy plate of Tex-Mex, not this polite arrangement of ingredients for the Capitol Hill gang.
Then I took a bite of the refried beans. Sweet Jesus, they tasted as if they were prepared in a third-generation cast iron skillet seasoned with the lard of 10,000 pigs. Rich only begins to describe the flavor of these earthy legumes mashed to a velvety consistency. The beans tasted deeper than anything a mere mortal could make; they tasted like earth and animal melted together into some primal flavor. On my deathbed, I want a plate of Ann Cashion‘s refried beans.
Those beans served as the base for the breakfast tacos I put together with the pair of soft tortillas tucked into the container. The eggs were fluffy and fine, and the salsa piquant enough, but those refried beans gave each bite of taco a depth that it would otherwise never have. This wasn’t huevos rancheros, at least not the kind I remember, but I didn’t care anymore. I had my stash of beans to comfort me.