This month, in honor of Mother’s Day, I pay tribute to Guadalupe Valenzuela Peyron Proctor or “Grandma Lupe.” She was the beloved mother and grandmother who left a treasured recipe behind for five generations to enjoy.
Here’s the story from Grandma Lupe’s granddaughter, Hayley Gibbons.
“The fact that our family has Arizona roots five generations deep clearly made Mexican food part of our family culture. That these tacos took a special place in our family gatherings was more a factor of our abiding love for the woman who first fried them up and they’re darn good.
“Grandma Lupe started making these tacos as a young bride in Tucson, on a small four-burner gas stove. It was 1920 and Arizona was in its infancy. A tiny woman (she wore a size 2 1/2 shoe), Lupe was known for her hospitality, her skill at stretching a meal and her tacos.
“So enjoy, and when you do, think of our Grandma Lupe. Know that you’re enjoying authentic cuisine that’s seen a pioneer Arizona family through its dark days and great joys.”
Grandma Lupe’s Tacos
1 pound of lean ground beef
1 dozen corn tortillas
Approximately 2 cups vegetable oil (for frying)
1 16 oz. can whole or crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried or fresh oregano
4 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Garlic salt for sprinkling
1 package cheese (cheddar, Mexican blend grated or crumbled)
Thin sliced radishes
Peas (frozen or canned)
Simmer the tomatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic, oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 15-20 minutes. Prepare tacos.
Press a thin layer (about 1 tablespoon) of raw ground beef onto on half of the tortilla. Season with garlic salt and pepper.
Heat oil on medium/high in large pot to avoid oil splatter. (Fry a few strips of corn tortillas to test oil temperature. Oil should bubble and strips should get crisp.) If tortillas cook too slowly, they’ll be greasy when done. If they cook too fast, it will be difficult to shape taco shell or have hamburger cook thoroughly. Once oil is the right temperature, gently place the tortilla with ground beef on it into the hot oil. Almost immediately, fold tortilla over meat to form taco. If oil gets too hot, lower temperature to medium. With tongs, turn tortillas to get crispy on both sides (about 1 1/2 minutes) making sure the top of the taco remains open. This will make it easier to stuff later. When cooked, lay each taco on a paper towel to drain until all 12 are done.
Fill tacos with tomato mixture (approximately 1 tablespoon). Add desired amount of cheese and lettuce. Garnish with radishes and about 2 tablespoons of peas. Taco sauce, salsa, guacamole or sour cream can be added if desired.