Seasoned pork! Cilantro! Onion! Tomato!… now three of them! ACK the wrapper is too hot. Wait—“dos” orders of “tres” tacos? With my elementary Spanish knowledge failing me, it’s no wonder I was relocated to the back of the stall to work. No customer interaction was needed there.
Families and groups streamed by oblivious to my burned fingers and scattered Spanglish attempts. At Our Lady of Guadalupe’s annual carnival, most people were interested in riding dizzying rides. Eventually they’d circle back to eat delicious food. How could they not? The smell itself was a siren song for the nose.
Immokalee is a tiny town located an hour from Naples, FL. The majority of its citizens are of Hispanic descent which greatly affects the food served at this carnival—I’m not complaining. Due to my parent’s work there, I practically grew up in Immokalee and the flavors from its annual carnival have stayed with me even after I moved away.
I got the church hook ups—for a little labor. I had to mentally promise not to eat everything in sight as I was let into the Barbacoa Taco Stall. With my dad grilling the Tortilla Wraps, me adding the meat, boyfriend Shoes on the Cilantro/Onion mix, and my Brother Bamboo just eating everything- our assembly line began! (Thankfully our old Youth For Christ coordinators manned the front with their smackdown Spanish skills)
Ooooh! Hot! Hot! Needles of heat pierced my gloves as I tried to hold open the wrapper to insert the Barbacoa Meat inside. At $4 for three tacos, we had to take care not to over/under load the stuffing. Each time we ran low on supplies we’d yell at the wandering help who would rush into the nearby building.
Beside our stall the Al Pastor Tacos were heating up and across the way the Twak!Twak!Twak! of cleaver knives chopping up the Bistec Tacos echoed in the air. I drooled with each taco slipping through my fingertips. Not far away, each diced onion, tomato, and cilantro was being cut manually. Every lime that accompanied the order was being sliced by hand. Even the meat was being served in crock pots—the kind that comes from homes. This was no chain store line here. Somehow eight people crammed into a 10×10 foot stall made it work.
And I ate! The price was definitely right and I tried all the Taco types. Did I also mention my stall served Horchatas (and sweet rice drink) and some sweet Pineapple drink? (All conquered by me). I could’ve easily eaten as much as I wanted without paying (but I paid… mostly). Side note, I never understood that stall where they cut up a bunch of yummy, fresh fruit… then douse the stuff in lemon juice, cayenne pepper and salt. I don’t understand…
True—Immokalee is a detour from Naples and doesn’t have a glitzy shopping district nor sandy beaches, but I encourage everyone to visit this uber-friendly town. And you’ll get a great meal from any place there. Burning my fingers was worth it.
You can see some of the Fair’s yums by clicking on any of the photos above.