I ordered a Navajo burger, but I wanted something different. I wanted tacos.
I want to bring tacos to the fair! That was my idea. I wanted to bring a food that I only discovered when I left Crownpoint and the Navajo Nation. When I ate a real taco a few years ago, it changed how I thought about Mexican food. Tacos are one of my absolute favorite foods (see my previous blog called "Tacos!").
So I had this idea and told my family about it. Our dinner table conversations became all about "we have to serve these kinds of tacos" and "we should also sell cupcakes because people always want something sweet after good tacos."
No one remembers who came up with the name, but it was during a conversation about the Crownpoint Howler, a bigfoot being that howls at night in the surrounding mesas. Our family is fascinated by the Howler and that fascination started with my grandma.
Our project became "The Howler Hut" in early 2016 and my folks were excited.
For months, my idea didn't have legs. We only talked about it but as the weeks went by, each of us took July 20, 21 and 22 off from work. Then I bought a notebook and started writing down things we needed and foods we were going to serve.
What sealed the deal was when my parents and I bought a box of checkered food trays in May.
The ball started rolling after that. We went to Home Depot for lumber because we wanted my dad to build benches for the tables. We bought supplies and nonperishables every weekend and we compared prices all over Albuquerque. We tested tacos and did a taco photo shoot in Las Cruces on my sister's birthday. We scheduled Howler meetings and eventually came up with a "mascot."
My sister and I came up with a few scribbles and sketches that we gave over to my friend, Terry Fisher, a screenprinter who goes by The Pug Dream. He drew the Howler for us and we ordered 100 T-shirts in June.
After the T-shirts, everything went by so fast. All of a sudden July 20 came around, I was off work and my car was filled with fresh tomatoes, cilantro, limes and lettuce.
On Thursday we rushed to Crownpoint to get our food handler's permits from the tribe at the last minute. (My sister lives in Las Cruces, my boyfriend and I live in Albuquerque and my parents are in Crownpoint.)
Earlier in the week, my grandparents and my parents built the actual hut at the fairgrounds the week of the fair. And when the rest of us blew into town, chaos ensued.
We stayed up late packing and making sure we had all we needed. On Friday morning we got a late start and I was stressed. It took so much time to pack and unload everything at the fairgrounds.
We missed the morning crowd...
Then the lunch crowd came and went.
It was burning hot. The ground was soft and things got dusty as soon as we unpacked them. There was a little bit of snapping, but we worked well together because we had a lot to do.
By 4 p.m. Friday, we were ready to go and we put our menu up and waited.
People came and went. They didn't' understand the menu. They asked for Navajo burgers all day on Friday.
I felt discouraged and disappointed. Why weren't people having as much fun as we were with the menu? Why didn't anyone want to try something new? Why weren't people ordering tacos?!?!
I bought most of the food and I saw it sit there all day on Friday. I bought 19 packages of little white corn tortillas (60 in each). I got 2 boxes of tomatoes, 100 limes, 15 pounds of cheese, 60 pounds of chuck beef roll, 60 pounds of ground beef, 18 bunches of cilantro, 100 pounds of flour, 24 cans of Spam and a ton of soda. We got all these things without really knowing how much we would need and it pained us to realize we bought too much. It pained me the most to hear people asking "do you have the hard shells?"
I made 10 tacos on Friday. That's what the new flat grill was for: tacos.
That night, we changed our menu and made it easier to understand. We added Navajo burgers. We took out the clever names and replaced them with "Large Navajo Taco" and "Small Navajo Taco."
Saturday was a different story. We sold dozens of Navajo burgers (hamburgers made with frybread instead of hamburger buns). My mom also stepped it up with the frybread. On Friday, she was turning them out nonstop and they were sitting on the counter getting cold and tough. But on Saturday, she made them fresh and hot and it was delicious! That frybread was the best I've had in a long time, and that's what one of our customers said in a Facebook review!
We cooked our own burger patties on the flat grill and seasoned them. Several people told us we had the best Navajo burgers.
More people ordered tacos on Saturday, too. I used four packages of tortillas.
A little boy came over to buy tacos, one at a time. He tried to get one for free but I said, "you have to pay for it." An hour later, we saw him counting pennies and dimes. I gave him two big tacos for his fist full of change. That was cute! That made me feel good.
The reaction to our small Navajo tacos made me feel good too. If you ever ordered a Navajo taco, it's a big round thing, bigger than a plate that you need to eat at a table with a fork and knife. We made them small and I think that was the first time anyone ever saw a small Navajo taco. Gasp, "look how small this is! It's so cute!" I heard that three times Saturday and we sold a bunch of them, mostly to parents who were feeding their kids.
My dad's hot salsa was a hit, too! My dad's salsa is already a hit with friends, family and my coworkers in Albuquerque. We gave everyone some salsa with the Navajo burgers and tacos. They loved it. If there's one thing Navajos like, it's hot chili that makes your ears burn.
When making the menu, I wanted to make sure things were small. How many times have you been to the fair, oogled at all the food, but you order one thing and you're full and you have no room for all the other foods? Smaller portions give you more room to eat more. Because it's the Fair!
Two days at the fair this year was a lot of work. It was hot, dusty and greasy. We did heavy lifting. We worked fast. And we learned a lot. Now we're planning for future.
We'd like to do this again during Halloween, because it's so fitting! We also really love Halloween!