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Closing Doors, Chipotle Shrimp Tacos

I was a sociology major in college and my fascination with the discipline has stayed with me. One of the things I love about sociology is that it examines how people function not as individuals, but as a group, and what elements of our society contribute to global changes, sweeping trends, and shifting mentalities. Sociology is a curiosity about who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re headed.

Back in my days at UCSD, I studied how social structures — political organizations, family units, and cultural and religious institutions — play an important role in shaping us not just as people, but as contributors to a larger whole. While psychology focuses on the he or she — what makes him or her tick – sociology takes a look at what makes society both function and disfunction. There was a time when I thought my future career may be tied to academia. Ultimately, I didn’t pursue this route, but I still find great satisfaction in analyzing social events and movements and reflecting on those that I feel hit very close to home.

Recently, my friend Lindsey sent me an article titled, ‘The Age of Possibility.’ I read it immediately and related to it instantly. I’ve been thinking a lot, in fact, about the concept of choice. The fact that we (I’m talking about young, educated, relatively affluent Americans) have a choice. And not just one choice, but many, to do what we will with our lives. We are not bound to our majors, not constrained by physical location, and not persecuted for our religious beliefs or cultural traditions. We are the freest individuals in the world, in my opinion. But with this freedom, we are, somewhat strangely, paralyzed by fear.

What do we fear, according to the author of the piece? The potential of closing even one door to one of the many possibilities in our lives. In the article, the author makes a number of references to statistics which reflect a rising trend of people refusing to have children and deciding not to pursue the route of having a nuclear family, but I actually think this fear of not having enough options isn’t just tied to the ‘big’ life decisions. We don’t just fear marriage and starting a family. We fear selecting a major in college, staying at one job too long, making large and seemingly ‘permanent’ purchases. I’ve seen it often — we want it all, always within reach. And want this feeling to last forever.  I wonder if we never close any doors by choice, can we still continue to open new ones?

Chipotle Shrimp Tacos with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
*serves 2 as a meal, 4 along with some side dishes

Tacos are a beloved weeknight dinner in our house. Last January, we featured a similar recipe in our Pairings Box (we used Chipotle Chili Powder to season the shrimp and paired them with avocado cream and clementines). In fact, we made that recipe for dinner last night! Back in September, we made a batch of Roasted Tomatillo Salsa that seemed to perfectly compliment spicy shrimp, but needed another flavor profile. We added some diced mango for sweetness, homemade guacamole and a squeeze of lime juice, and an ordinary meal became magical. If you’re in a pinch, you can buy pre-made salsa and guacamole (and even pre-sliced mango!). The recipe is very loose and you could easily make a huge batch of shrimp and toppings to serve a crowd. You can find chipotles in adobo sauce at Mexican markets and in many mainstream grocery stores (in the ethnic food section). 

For the shrimp:

1 pound of shrimp
1 tablespoon of sauce from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce
salt + freshly ground pepper, to taste


Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
Homemade Guacamole
Finely chopped cilantro leaves
Diced mango
Lime wedges

Corn tortillas

1. First, peel and clean the shrimp. Combine the cleaned shrimp and chipotle sauce in a small bowl. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat shrimp in the sauce.
2. Preheat an indoor grillpan to medium-high. Once it’s hot, add the shrimp and cook, flipping once, until they are just cooked (a few minutes per side). Transfer grilled shrimp to a bowl and keep warm.
3. Warm the tortillas. Heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tortillas, one by one, cooking for about 45 seconds to one minute before flipping to the other side. Place the tortillas on a serving plate and keep warm (wrapping them in a tea towel helps).
3. Place all of the taco fillings on the table and allow each person to build his/her own using their desired toppings. We recommend a little bit of everything, including a squeeze of lime for the finish.

Musical Pairings: Ty Segall – Twins + Chipotle Shrimp Tacos with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

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Posted by Kasey

Kasey is the food editor and co-founder of Turntable Kitchen. She loves dark chocolate, warm crusty bread, and traveling to new places. She speaks Russian, but does not like vodka.

  • Oh this is so true – I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve felt that fear. My life has, thus far, been fairly conventional and I know that’s because I’m far too scared to open the door to the unexpected. Definite food for thought, thanks Kasey. And thank you also for the sudden craving I’ve had for tacos… 😉

  • Maggie@TheSoulFoodCompany

    The tacos look and sound delicious! Love the little bit of string holding one together!

  • Such an interesting topic. I just read this article in NY Mag that I think you’ll appreciate.

  • So well put, Kasey. I agree that we’re overwhelmed by choice. I constantly have to remind myself that it’s okay to take risks and change my mind if I want to.

  • Amanda Areias

    What a coincidence Kasey, I did also start and finished three years of a bachelor in sociology back in Brazil (not sure the equivalence here, education is a bit different there…). I didn’t finish the course though but the fascination for the discipline is still alive in me, no doubt :)…. especially if the matter is the culture of food and how the way we farm/cook/eat affects our lives and the world around us.
    Anyway, I just want to say I totally agree with you, we want it all and many times closing a door can be really, really painful. I’ve seen it happening not just here, in America, but in Brazil too!

    Oh, really appetizing tacos and well done pictures by the way!

  • Kathryn, here’s to opening (and closing) more doors in 2013. And more tacos, of course! xo

  • Thanks, Maggie!

  • Thanks for sharing that article, Emily! It has definitely been added to my ‘to read’ list. I think it’s good to question why we don’t push ourselves to make clearcut decisions…and actively close some doors.

  • Thanks, Kristin! It’s definitely true that taking risks is all about closing the door on some possibilities, but I also think it’s true that changing your mind is a-ok.

  • Hi Amanda! I’m pleasantly surprised to learn a number of fellow bloggers happened to study sociology back in the day! No wonder we relate so well 😉 I think that choosing one road vs. another is always difficult, especially because you may continue to ask, “what if?” but I do think it’s necessary, and can also open up new possibilities you may have never thought of. Thank you so much for the compliment and for stopping by to share your thoughts. Hope you are well and Happy New Year! xo

  • Diana @ Brooklyn Galley

    Kasey, this post definitely hits home. Have you read The Paradox of Choice? I just finished it last month and it’s pretty fascinating. Basically, the author questions whether having an endless buffet of choices (anything from ice cream flavors at a supermarket, to college majors, careers, and places to live) actually makes us happier. His argument is that having freedom in life is good, but sometimes endless options just stress us out and cause unhappiness. (One part focuses on groups and structures, that belonging to a structure or unit that may seem to limit individual freedom — such families, close friendships, religious orgs, clubs — can bring more happiness even though your time, activities, and other options in life could be limited by them.) It’s a really interesting read and definitely speaks to the feeling of being paralyzed by fear from all these choices around us!

  • Hi Diana, thanks for sharing! I have not read the Paradox of Choice but you’ve made such a good point for it that I’m adding it to my reading list. Sometimes I think about those rare weekends when I have nothing planned and the world is just FULL of possibility – I could go out for a hike! I could go get my nails done! I could paint the dresser! I could drive up to wine country! But what often ends up happening is I end up being overwhelmed by these seemingly simple choices. I’ll often end up just doing work. Such a strange phenom. Thanks again for the recommendation and congrats to you on your book – so happy to see your success! xo

  • This is such a thought-provoking post, Kasey, and I totally identify with the fear that you describe. I’m trying to be less afraid of lost opportunities as I reach toward the right ones. Hope you’re feeling well, I’m so eager for baby updates!

  • Wait, I have more to say. I was (and still am) interested in psychology as an undergrad. Thought I’d mention that a desire to keep options open can be a personality trait. See the “perceiving” trait in the Myers-Briggs personality test: I’m wondering if/how society could be enabling or encouraging this trait to show itself.

  • Jessica

    What interesting musings on life, paired with tacos! I definitely relate to what you’re talking about here. Thanks for sharing!

  • I was struggling with home accent colors several months ago and a designer friend of mine said, “Don’t worry about it, just paint. If you don’t like the color, you can always paint it again.” I know it sounds silly, but that can apply to so many scenarios in life. Sometimes I spend too much time considering and stressing over the options rather than diving into the experience! I’ve become more decisive as I grow older, but it’s something I’m always looking to improve on 🙂 PS. Those skrimps look delicious 🙂

  • I think you’ve got a great attitude…you win some, you dim sum, right? 😉 Also, I love that this post has made everyone recall their college soc and psych days! I definitely think this is an interesting phenom and wonder what it is that’s making this trait become more and more prominent not just in our society, but on an individual basis. Ahh, Myers-Briggs….I remember that one! x

  • Thank you, Jessica! I think somewhere in there, there’s a connection between topping choices for tacos and life choices, right? 😉

  • Brandon, you are so right! I think we can sometimes our approach to small changes in our lives reflects how we tend to handle the big picture. Same with getting your haircut, or even choosing what you’re going to eat for lunch (have you noticed how some people order multiple things to share because they worry they’ll otherwise miss out on the one really delicious dish?). Funny to think about those things. But, I also agree, age can helps us be more decisive, at least with some things 🙂

  • ellcoolj

    We are a weekly burrito family, refried and black beans. I made this last night (all with items I had in the fridge/freezer) and think it will become part of the usual rotation. I’m viewing it as one of the split doors, not a new door opening, just part of an existing door getting allowing more breeze in. Thanks for the idea and the inspiration.

  • That’s awesome! Having one foot in the burrito door and the other in the taco door works for me 🙂 Happy New Year!

  • Diana @ Brooklyn Galley

    Thanks, Kasey! And I know exactly what you’re saying about the weekends; when you live in a city there are so many possibilities but much of the time I just end up at home working on blog posts. (Which can be fun in itself.)

  • Kate

    Lovely piece, and lovely looking tacos!

  • Wish I had one of your tacos.

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