I’ve always liked tacos.
Growing up, my mom would cook them for dinner on a somewhat frequent basis, despite some of my siblings despising them.
When I was in elementary school, taco day was certainly in my top five school lunches, even if it was held, at most, twice a month — it didn’t have the general popularity to earn a day of the week, like chicken nugget Monday did. It was just a matter if it was twin tacos, or the obvious preference for a youngster, the taco boat.
The crispy shell (we were a hard shell family) provides the ultimate vessel for the spicy ground beef, the crunch of the lettuce and the tangy heat of the salsa. No cheese, of course, in a kosher home. The taco shell would eventually break and you’d mix everything up with the side of rice on the plate for a fun little taco salad concoction.
Heck, when I was in third grade and didn’t know any better, I made the password to my first ever email address was “taco,” and all lowercase, to make it worse. Fortunately, I had already changed it before this scene from Family Guy was televised several years later, in 2005.
Many years later
After graduating college, a trip to Europe and nearly a year of hunting for a job, this lifelong New York resident was hired to become a reporter for a group of newspapers in Bethany Beach, Delaware. If you told me on Day 1 of the job hunt that this is would be the end result, well, I probably would have laughed it off.
So on August 7, 2011, I drove to southern Delaware, starting work the following day, and I’ve done my best to make the best of it. My apartment is five miles west of the Atlantic Ocean and it has a screened in porch, home to my kitchen table, which looks out to the Indian River Bay.
And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my three years here about southern Delaware, it’s that it’s slowly but surely emerging into a culinary destination. Coastal Delaware has produced two James Beard Award-nominated chefs in the last two years, a brewer who has been a James Beard Award finalist for four straight years and the 2014 James Beard Humanitarian of the Year.
Restaurants and stores here — particularly the ones that succeed — place a strong emphasis on staying true to their local roots, and it’s something I’ve grown to appreciate since I moved down here. One chef has posted his weekly haul from one of the many farmers markets in the area on Instagram for several weeks. Another forages for greens from as close as on the sidewalk outside his restaurant, as well as throughout the region.
In the summer, here, produce stands pop up left and right, filled with fresh local fruits and vegetables. The smallest of shacks on the most unassuming footprints can produce the mightiest of barbecue. And the fish, when it’s straight from the water, simply can’t be beat. A former co-worker once gave me a filet of rockfish he caught after one of his many fishing trips, and it was simply delicious.
The momentum for eating local and celebrating southern Delaware as a food spot is only growing. The county’s tourism bureau pushes “the culinary coast” extraordinarily. Someone from one of the local breweries once told me about how back in the 1920s, buying beer was not unlike buying bread or produce for the day — it would be bought fresh in a bucket or a pitcher and was meant to consume shortly after it was acquired. The state in 2013 passed a law to allow for growler filling stations in its liquor stores, giving customers the ability to bring home fresh draft beer from area breweries.
A popular website in the area solely consists of reviews on local restaurants. Its owner, last year, spun that success into a business in which he conducts food walking tours in two resort cities where tour-goers stop and eat at five restaurants and interact with its chefs and owners, to get a better understanding of how the food is prepared. It’s what people want to know — and have started to appreciate — now.
Summer of fish tacos
Fast forward to June 2014. The tourist season is in full swing. Cars are everywhere.
Everyone on the advertising side of my office, like me, is a big fan of food. They talk about food a lot. I’m known to walk across the office when I overhear an interesting conversation about food taking place over there, which happens often.
One of my co-workers is especially passionate about food, and equally passionate about a good deal. He clued me in on a happy hour special that couldn’t be beat, at a restaurant not too far away from the office, one I could get to with ample time to spare if I left right at 5 p.m. The special was simple: Two rockfish tacos for $6.
So one Monday afternoon, another co-worker and I enjoyed happy hour at said restaurant. We each ordered the special and chatted over fish tacos and the bottled domestic beers of our choice.
In our conversation, I told her how I wanted to eat more fish tacos this summer. Really, what better culinary way is there to celebrate the local area? If I lived in Philadelphia, it would be cheesesteaks and probably a membership to a gym. If I lived in New York, it would certainly be a plain slice of pizza. If I lived in New Orleans, it would be gumbo or po’ boys.
But, for now, I live on the coast, where fish couldn’t be fresher, so it made sense, in my mind, to eat more fish. And what better way to eat a fish than on a taco? This is coming from the same person who wrote this story for a newspaper, which was published on June 3, about how fish tacos were rising in popularity.
Plus, I’d say fish tacos are cheaper and provide more bang for your buck than the crab cake. And I don’t have a whole lot of buck.
So I told her I ought to start a blog about all the fish tacos I would eat over the course of the summer, sort of as a joke. I even came up with the name, Fish Tacblog, not to be confused with Fish Taco Blog — that was too much of a mouthful to say, in my opinion, and then said co-worker wanted to make a crude connection that never came to my mind. Crisis averted.
But, like I said, this idea was really a joke, so I thought. But in my mind, I was thinking logistics. In my three years here, I’ve quickly learned that the summer in a resort area is a fun but stressful time in my line of work. I needed some sort of project to undertake to help the summer go by. I asked myself how this silly idea would best be executed. What platform do I use? Do I actually make an investment and buy FishTacblog.com?
Well, I didn’t buy the domain name. That night, though, Monday, June 16, I posted a picture of fish tacos on Instagram, just for fun, that I already had on my phone.
And a whopping 10 people liked it. And that’s not a sarcastic “whopping.” That was more than 1/7th of my Instagram followers, at the time.
And so the Summer of Fish Tacos began.
I’ve been eating fish tacos at a rate of about once a week, perfect for a weekly series on Instagram. And unlike my childhood, all of the tacos, so far, have been soft-shell tacos, which I think is appropriate for the more delicate protein. Who wants a fish taco salad, anyway?
I settled on taking a photo of the fish tacos each time I had a new fish taco, and eventually post it on Instagram with where the fish taco was from and a description of the taco, ideally straight from the menu. From there, I set up an IFTTT recipe to ultimately make any post I make on Instagram using the #fishtacblog hashtag post on this Tumblr website, which features, what I think is, a sweet design that really puts an emphasis on photos. I’m not sure if anyone has even visited that site, but I think it’s neat.
The following Monday, right before “24,” I posted another photo of fish tacos, using the method above. Eleven people liked it. And since then, I’ve been posting photos of fish tacos on Monday nights, preferably before “24,” when I could and when it was airing. The show is over, but the Summer of Fish Tacos lives on, as I’ve still been posting pictures Monday nights.
The photos of fish tacos, are, by far, the most popular photos I’ve put up on Instagram since I started doing them, and probably also since I joined Instagram in April 2012.
So there you have it. That’s why I’m posting a photo of fish tacos once a week on Instagram.