Where do taco ingredients and methods come from? Corn, tomatoes, and chili were all in Mexico before 1492, but beef, pork, and metal grills and griddles used for cooking are all European, originally:
"Pork carnitas is one of the most famous dishes in Mexican cuisine. .... Without a doubt, the flexible tortilla and the tender pork come together to provide an unparalleled culinary performance: that corn dough with which the gods created the first man in the Americas meets the pig, an animal that in New Spain in the sixteenth century was eaten as proof of adherence to the Catholic faith." (p.143)The role of technology in tacos? Taco-making depends on a variety of inventions. For example, "basket tacos" are carried from taco kitchen to customers in bicycle baskets; during the ride, the tacos finish cooking by being steamed while they are all packed together. And tacos al pastor were originally (and sometimes still) made on a gyros vertical grill introduced to Mexico by Middle-Eastern immigrants around a century ago. Overall, the authors' casual way of looking at food history is delightful.
How do Mexican idioms incorporate food metaphors? Check out the amusing image above left. Even though I don't know Spanish, I found these little illustrations very entertaining.
Where can you get the best of every kind of tacos? And how would you make them yourself? In this encyclopedic book, each description of a type of taco is accompanied by a page of recommended taco stalls, food trucks or restaurants in Mexico, as well as by a variety of recipes. The more obscure ingredients and spices are also explained and pictured.
The authors feel that tacos are a key to their culture, and they show enormous respect for the makers and innovators of this food. As the introduction puts it: "there must be something deeply rooted in our culture that makes tacos this culinary wonder loved by the whole world... unlike any other dish, tacos are one of the most definitive traits of Mexican culture." (p. 9)
I've read a few books on tacos and their close culinary relatives by North American writers. Tacopedia is a welcome addition to my library and to my knowledge. More books --
- Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America by Gustavo Arellano.
- Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food by Jeffrey M. Pilcher.
- Que vivan los tamales!: Food and the Making of Mexican Identity, another by Jeffrey M. Pilcher.
- And I haven't read yet, but on my list: Tortillas: A Cultural History by Paula E. Morton.