5th Oct 2021 | News Articles
At first glance it may seem just a simple, if delicious, corn or wheat tortilla wrapped round your food of choice.
But dig beneath the guacamole or salsa topping and the humble taco reveals the story of Mexican people and cuisine.
The best theory on how the taco came to be named is presented by Jeffrey M. Pilcher, professor of History at Minnesota University.
The Spanish dollar was the first worldwide coinage, much of it mined and minted in Mexico and in his book Planet Taco Prof Pilcher tells how miners would use paper wrapped round gunpowder to expose the silver mine from the rockface – these plugs were known as tacos.
It’s easy to see how a fiery chicken taco would be likened to an explosive charge and one of the first recorded names given to the Mexican tortilla is tacos del minero – miner’s taco.
Following independence in 1821 the Mexican capital, Mexico City, attracted workers from across the country and these settlers also opened up restaurants known as Taquerias specialising in their own variations of traditional Mexican food – the different tacos and toppings we know today began to emerge.
By the 20th century Mexico City had become a melting pot for international flavours as Lebanese immigrants brought with them vertical rotisseries to roast lamb. The step to wrapping in a tortilla and using different meats was a short one and tacos Arabes – Arab tacos were born.
Texas and its founding town of San Antonio – home of the Alamo – have long been a bridging point between the United States and Mexico and for tourists one of the highlights was the tacos and other street food served up by Mexican women known as the Chili queens. Word of the taco began to spread.
By the 1940s street vendors were realising that cooking the tortilla was taking up time and by crisp frying cornflour in advance you could make a sturdy u-shaped tortilla and scoop various meats, fish and toppings into it to order.
In California Glen Bell realised the potential of these corn shells and they became a feature of the Taco Bell chain of restaurants which helped bring the hard shell taco to global attention as well as supermarket shelves.
As Mexican immigrants established themselves in the US National Taco Day emerged to celebrate their culture and soon the importance of their vote became clear.
The Viva Kennedy campaign secured Latino support for JFK’s successful `1960 election campaign and a 48lb tamale – similar to a taco but wrapped in banana leaf – was sent by motorcade from San Antonio as a birthday gift to the President from “citizens of Latin heritage”.
A tradition was born, with President Lyndon B. Johnson receiving a 55lb taco and similar gifts arriving for Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.
From miners to presidents the taste of the taco has everyone licking their lips and its simple idea of scooping your favourite meat, fish or vegetable into a tortilla then heaping on lettuce, tomatoes and your favourite sauce or topping means anyone can make their own variation.
For a delicious and easy option this Taco Day why not try any of our range of deli fillings in a tortilla or use our dips and sauces to give that added zing to your meat or vegetable of choice.