The Culture of the Taco

It is important to remember that though tacos are of Mexican origin, there is not an archetypal kind of Mexican taco. Mexican people incorporate the recipes and cooking styles of indigenous and European people into their own. According to Tacopedia, an informative tome written by  Déborah Holtz and Juan Carlos Mena, the taco is the focal point of Mexican cuisine. The taco, simply described as a tortilla wrapped around food, is known worldwide for its Mexican roots, and known in Mexico as part of the Mexican culture.

The phrase, “echarse un taco,” to grab a taco, has become so prevalent in Mexico that it is now synonymous with getting any kind of food. Many Mexican sayings incorporate tacos as well, including but not limited to, “Le echas mucha crema a tus tacos,” which means you add a lot of sour cream to your tacos, and describes someone who thinks very, possibly too, highly of himself or herself. Though this is certainly interesting, it is not the only way tacos have been integrated into Mexico’s general culture.

The process of nixtamal is also well-known in Mexico and used to create the tortilla- the soft outer shell of the taco that holds all the ingredients. Maize is boiled in diluted quicklime, and the kernels are left out over night. This allows the mixture of cornmeal and maize flour to become malleable and cohesive. This process dates back to 1,000 and 500 B.C. when the taco was “created” as an edible spoon. Due to its ability to hold a number of foods, Holtz and Mena note that there are many variations of the taco, and they are all ubiquitous in Mexico.

The hard taco shell was created so that Mexican food could travel beyond Mexican culture. The traditional tortilla does not last very long; sitting out for twenty-four hours can leave the tortilla stale. The hard shell, however, is fried, wrapped in plastic, and can sit until it needs to be used. This is helpful when goods are being transported out of Mexican communities and spread all over the world.

Even with the many different versions produced by the Mexican people, Tacos still continue to be redesigned all over the world. For example, if one were to ask for tacos in California, he or she may be served smoked marlin tacos: marlin wrapped in a tortilla with cilantro, cabbage, tomatoes, and red onion. If this same question was asked in Sweden, it is likely one will get a Gringa Taco: corn tortilla filled with cheese and seasoned beef, served with salsa, cilantro, and onion. Due to their presence worldwide, tacos have become a defining aspect of Mexican culture.

As you can see, the taco is a strong part of Mexican culture. Its variance makes it even more popular worldwide, and Mexico can take pride in the fact that they have an international presence. This is evident because of the many chain restaurants that were created to serve Mexican food. Just a few examples are Taco Bell, Chipotle, Blue Burrito, and California Tortilla, and interestingly enough, these all exist either on campus or downtown.





3 Comments on The Culture of the Taco

  1. mgc5166
    October 16, 2015 at 4:45 pm (4 years ago)

    I remember the first time I realized the versatility of the mighty taco. It was at a birthday party, and up until then, the tacos my mother made were always the same consistent recipe. It blew my toddler mind that a taco could have chicken or pork instead of beef. And reading this makes me feel the epiphany all over again. I also think it’s hilarious that saying someone adds too much sour cream to their tacos is a slight at someone’s lofty ego, and I had no idea that the tortilla was such an old concept. I’m feeling tacos tonight.

  2. kvl5406
    October 8, 2015 at 9:51 pm (4 years ago)

    I never thought of a taco as an edible spoon but this realization is kind of mind blowing because that’s really exactly what it is! I will probably never get over that, honestly. I think it’s super interesting that saying “grab a taco” could mean getting any type of food now. It reminds me of how there are some places that call all soda Coke. It’s interesting to see how food and culture are intertwined and how it can even influence language!

  3. aft5105
    October 5, 2015 at 11:49 am (4 years ago)

    Mmmm I may just head to Chipotle after reading this! The history of the taco is quite interesting. That’s amazing that the hard shelled taco can last until ready to be eaten. I have always wondered about the story behind the different types of taco shells. It seems that a taco means something different in each culture and that is cool to see how something changed over time in each culture and what it means in each one!

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