I distinctly remember my first taco. I can’t remember how old I was when my mom decided to take me to the Taco Bell at Sunvalley Mall in Concord, California, but I eventually got to know that taco well. It had a hard shell, ground beef, lettuce, and it was topped with thinly shredded cheese. Little did I know that it was nothing like an authentic taco. Fast forward a few decades later and I’m in Mexico City a week ago, sitting at a taqueria, devouring numerous tacos at El Farolito. They were nothing like that first taco; the tortillas were soft, and the meat tasted well, not as processed. There was a selection of salsa, pico de gallo, and onions and cilantro to sprinkle to sprinkle on top as I pleased. I’ve had countless tacos between my first and the one I had last week, and to be honest, I don’t know much about tacos.
Thank goodness for Tacopedia by Déborah Holtz and Juan Carlos Mena. This book goes over everything I’ve ever wanted to know about the taco, from the history of the taco to the history of the tortilla. It dissects the tortilla, from the invention of the corn tortilla, every way you can possibly prepare it — baked, fried, steamed, boiled and more — and goes all the way to how the flour tortilla came along. Then it goes into the taco, teaching readers everything, how meat is prepared, the different ways you can eat it, the best places to get them — El Farolito was on the list, Taco Bell wasn’t — and fun facts like this:
-“During the Porfiro Diaz Regime at the turn of the 20th century, tacos were seen as the food of the poor.”
-”The average Mexican consumes 135 pounds of tortillas a year.”
-”Having tacos al pastor with a “garden” of onion, cilantro, pineapple, and salsa is a Mexico City original.
So if you love tacos, or know somebody who does, we suggest you go pick up a copy of this book. It’s pretty awesome.
Tacopedia, $16.47 at amazon.com.