The creation of tacos goes back at least 500 years. With time, a Mexican dish has gone from hard labour sustenance to gourmet status, with pan-cultural appeal.
In 21st century America, it is tough to imagine life without tacos. Tacos are on the menu at high-end restaurants and not-so-high-end restaurants and all sorts of restaurants in between.
But before tacos became present everywhere – Raccoon Removal Melbourne, FL and in a gourmet version with a margarita bar, if you are lucky – there was a time if Californians and Texans didn’t understand about folded tortillas and yummy fillings. In actuality, you can trace the history of tacos to a not-so-distant period when visionary Mexican people first began experimenting with tortillas wrapped around the classic Indian and, afterwards, peasant diet of rice, beans, vegetables and chili peppers; and later, after the conquest of Mexico, meat.
They may pre-date that the Europeans’ arrival in Central America – and fish tacos were the first form. Anthropologists note a taco-like food was discovered by explorer Bernal Diaz del Castillo (1492-1584) among indigenous people in the plateau lake district of the State of Mexico.
Del Castillo ended up getting the governor of Antigua Guatemala. However, there isn’t any record of whether or not he hired taco caterers for diplomatic entertainment during his rule.
The actual word “taco” might have come later. SmithsonianMag.com, the online magazine of this venerated Smithsonian Institution, cautions that the actual origins of tacos (the food) are murky, but it appears the name is tied to the dynamite used in silver mines during the 1700s. Explosives wrapped in paper were used to blast rocks in the precious metal mines.
It stayed working class food for a while to come, with the European settlers eschewing it to get more continental fare. No worries -proud Mexican nationals embraced it as part of their (non-European) Aztec heritage.
Around the 1880s, Mexican immigrants to Texas began selling tacos in Austin, first to festivalgoers and afterwards to tourists who were considering the tastes of Mexico without the worries of banditos south of the Rio Grande. The ingredients which were used evolved in the first half of the 20th century, based on agricultural and ethnic-origin factors.
The food carts of Austin were replaced by restaurants and, finally, overshadowed by a non-Mexican named Glen Bell, the founder of Taco Bell restaurants. It is safe to say that millions of people ate their initial taco at Taco Bell. The series may use somewhat banal American ingredients (e.g., iceberg lettuce), but tacos have always been versatile and adaptable to local tastes.
Now taco businesses offer catering at private parties and public events equally and serve a broad variety of tacos (and their cousin, the burritos) with a virtually infinite number of options for fillings. And as tacos fed hungry employees long ago, the nutrients in tacos can be remarkable healthy and satiating to contemporary diners of any socioeconomic strata.
Will the taco continue to evolve in the future? It’s hard to imaging that they won’t. Just so long as the taste continues to burst with texture, taste and spice, tacos will probably be the favored fun food for generations to come.