After a day at work yesterday, I stopped by Maxwell Street, Chicago’s outdoor summer street fair. There’s a lot of stuff there that nobody would want- a stand that sells only shoelaces, one guy with an old, rusted out van with a panoply of similarly rusted circular saws and mechanical equipment. You pass a couple stands and do a double take. There are matchbox cars, straw hats, old video games, and a bunch of stuff that you don’t need, but you never knew you wanted until you see it.

I’m guilty of bringing home a couple of Super Nintendo games, and I have also been stopped in my tracks by the barkers who sell cases of vegetables for $5 each. When I’m there, though, there is the inevitable pass by the smokey outdoor food stands at the south end of the market. Running the smokehouse at work yesterday morning, I wasn’t looking at the two barbecue stands, although they smelled fantastic as always, but I was more excited by the stalls selling Tacos and Pupusas.

I had already eaten lunch, (big mistake), but I just stopped to watch what was going down. At Mama Lula’s, there was an older woman, presumably Mama Lula, on the griddle, flipping tortillas and scrambling various fillings with the other hand. On the far side of the stand, there was another matronly employee readying a giant tub of masa for tortillas, and yet another stirring a giant pot of simmering meat filling.

It smelled fantastic. It was warm and inviting. It looked incredible. There were blistering tortillas and pupusas flying over the counter. I didn’t taste anything because I was full, but the handwritten sign, “Tacos 4 for 5”, was more than inviting.

Unless you grew up with this, these weren’t your mother’s tacos. The menu was mostly in Spanish, but in addition to the usual offerings of tacos al pastor (pork), pollo (chicken) and barbacoa (beef), there was a selection of lesser known offerings: tripas (tripe), lengua (tongue), and a few more options that slip my mind. For those who knew, though, it was probably heaven. They wouldn’t have those items if they didn’t have a following.

Food cooked by a mom tastes better.

This week, we have two moms coming to town. My mom is coming in from Madison on Wednesday afternoon, and my lady’s mom, aunt, and family friend are coming in later that evening from the East Coast. The afternoon will bring some cooking alongside my mom, and by dinner time, I hope to have something fabricated that we can all eat and enjoy.