Welcome to another edition of the Guide’s weekly celebration of all things food. Nothing could bring us more pleasure than bringing our love of food to you. If you have checked out some of our previous offerings, check out this post on National Apple Month, or the post that started it all with National Cheese Soufflé Day. Heck! Check out all of our Food Holiday posts as they cover the most delectable holidays on the planet. But this holiday excites me more than most. It covers one of my favorite foods of all time. Join us and stand at attention, or take a knee, and celebrate one of the most delicious and versatile foods on the planet as the Guide celebrates National Taco Day, October 4th.
Who doesn’t love a good taco? It’s a nice helping of meats, veggies, and cheese, wrapped in a delicious shell and served to you almost any way you like it. And what makes tacos great is how many different ways you can have them. List any type of meat, any type of veggie and any type of cheese (with the possible exception of Bree and then maybe you can tell me how to work that in), and you can create a food masterpiece all wrapped in a beautiful shell. And even the shells have some variance as you can use all kinds of flours to make them, make them gluten free, and fix them hard or soft shell. The taco represents culinary magic.
As for my memories of the taco, I remember it as a food my mother could not destroy. (The long history of my mother destroying food for me may be sad but it encouraged me to find good food out there and made me the food lover I am today.) I don’t think I had a flour shell taco at home in my life. There were wheat issues we had before wheat issues became a thing.
Instead, my mother would get a large packet of corn tortillas and fry them up on a frying pan until the shell became nice and crispy. She would then fry up some ground beef, add a few seasonings and out would come something entirely unique. Chop up some lettuce, tomatoes, and onions, shred some cheese, cut up some olives and have them all in serving bowls ready to be added with fresh salsa and a dollop of sour cream. My mouth waters just thinking about it.
It was the family taco bar that we would get to eat about once a month. And it was a time I knew I would fill up on good food keeping me going until the next time my mother sprang taco bars on us. And good food time represents family time. Society today has lost a lot of the food magic as we have grown separated. Even our meal times, with how busy we keep ourselves and how distant we have become, come at all hours. For me the taco is more than culinary magic. The taco means life. It means the life and health of a family. So I hope you celebrate with us on this glorious October 4th a little taco magic . . . with your family.
But if you have been hanging around the Guide long enough, you know that we couldn’t celebrate food without bringing a bit of fake food history directly to your table. Whether this means going into our recently repaired Wayback time machine, scouring the vast underbelly of the deep web, or trekking it out to the vast jungles of the Amazon, the Guide cannot and will not forget to bring you the best of fake food history to you. And so it shall be with the Taco. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the results of our fake food history search as the guide presents: the fake food history of the taco.
The Fake Food History Of The Taco
Contrary to popular belief among the smart set that the taco was the invention the Spanish settlers in what we now know of as Mexico, the taco actually started with the indigenous peoples of the area. Prior to the Spanish conquistadors, there lived in a small village with an unpronounceable name, a person known to the natives only as Tlahco Bhutmani. As there are no any longer and Bhutmani peoples, it was hard to do research as to the etymology of the name. Or we made it up. You be the judge. Regardless, Tlahco was a short man of exceeding girth who seemed to get cold as the summer months would fade into winter. High up in the hills as he was with his pet goat Fredo, he would toil all day and sleep 13 hours every night. Of course, this all day was a relative term to Tlahco.
Every winter he would come down from his home in the hills to spend time with the larger native community as it was too cold up there for him. Of course, we would come wrapped in tons of blankets when he got down to where the rest of his tribe was. They made fun of little Tlahco being wrapped in all of those blankets he would wrap himself up in.
He did have one friend in the community, who was the local chef named Pankoh. Not that they had such a things as chefs back then. But Pankoh would prepare the fish for the natives that they would bring back from their fishing trips. Normally, with the right amount of cooking, this seafood would almost fall apart on its own, and easily be handled.
One winter, after Tlahco came down with Fredo in tow, Pankoh was trying to separate the fish from the bone from the fisherman’s latest haul. But this winter, it did not seem to come apart so wellas well. Tlahco walked in on his friend and asked him what the matter was. When Pankoh exclaimed that he didn’t know what to do with the seafood he had prepared, Tlahco felt bad. He didn’t know what to do. But then he remembered the little corn flatbread that his mom made for him on his journey down from the hills.
She said, “Don’t forget your little flatbreads my boy. You know your journey is long.” Tlahco remembered that vividly as he made his way down the mountain looking at the small pile of flatbreads she gave him.
Maybe she had made so few as she knew he didn’t get along with too many people down south. Maybe she expected a quick return trip on his way back. Tlahco was not sure. But whatever the case, he knew his mother’s flat breads would come in handy for his friends fish. Of this he was certain. So he told his friend Pankoh to fry up the bread and then put the strips seafood picked off the fish into the little shell that was created.
Pankoh did this nervously. He put the fish in the shell that was created by the bread and handed them out to the villagers. At first they stared strangely at Pankoh. No one wanted to touch it. But before long, some village child grabbed a shell and tore into it as he was starving after helping out in the fields. He tore through the first one, and then a second before other villagers began to notice and reluctantly tried out this new food. The people absolutely loved it. And from there the Tlahco was born.
Actually, Pankoh didn’t know what to call the funny creation at first. But he thought of his funny clothed friend in all his wrappings and thought that this was wrapped fish, kind of like his friend Tlahco. So he started calling them that. Funny thing about Panko was that he never could pronounce his “l’s” and so he began to drop it when pronouncing Tlahco’s name. So he ended up calling this creation, like his friend, Taco.
Of course, the taco would spread from there throughout the region. So by the time Hernán Cortés came around and would be conquering Mexico for the Spanish over the Aztecs, tacos were in wide spread use. He and his fellow conquistadors would supplant much of what the natives had already done. And the story of little Tlahco has completely vanished from the telling of the Taco. Cortés and his men when they came to Mexico loved the taco so much that they decided to make it their own, literally. Like every other thing they had in Mexico that wasn’t nailed down, they claimed ownership of the taco.
But by the time they had arrived, they did not like the seafood that had been served on the shells with veggies. They added beef and chicken as well as other vegetables to their wrapped dish. We know for certain this to be the case as Bernal Díaz del Castillo documented the first taco feast enjoyed by Europeans. He wrote that this “taco” was a scrumptious meal Hernán Cortés arranged for his captains in Coyoacán. And from there the legend of the Mexican Taco was born. Or the Spanish one. Something like that anyway. And the rest, you can say, is fake history.
So on October 4th, when you sit staring into that delicious goodness known as the taco, remember the little short man named Tlahco Bhutmani and his little wrapped fish that Pankoh fixed for his tribe. And raise a glass of whatever you are drinking to them. And never forget that the Tlahco was an indigenous people’s dish. So maybe you should have another one on October 9th, which is Indigenous People’s Day. Or something like that.
The Top Five Taco Place in Southern California
Being the Guide, we could not just sit still and only give you the fake history of this marvelous food. We need to go beyond that and give you something more. As we do not have the definitive take on the taco (given the vast ways there are to make a taco), we figured that finding the best taco places around would be the next best thing. So the Guide scoured far and wide to find the five best taco places in Southern California. And if we can find a great deal on National Taco day, we will list that as well. Here is what we came up with.
5) Taco Mesa – Costa Mesa & Mission Viejo
Since 1991 Taco Mesa has proudly been the haven of Healthy and Authentic Mexican food. And they prepare the food in small batches so you don’t end up with overcooked or chewy meat in your tacos. As for the Tacos themselves, they come with a rich array of various different meats including the amazing lobster tacos. And for those health conscious, all but the fried fish tacos come gluten free. From the rich salsas to the great fillings, your mouth will water with delight as they tempt you with their amazing fare.
4) Sonoratown – Los Angeles
Simple and delicious, Sonora town brings tacos to its bare necessities. While most people come for the chivichanga, you should not fall asleep on their tacos. With a beautiful simplicity and some amazing salsas, the carne asada tacos there are the best around. Served with a north Mexican flare, Sonoratown prides itself on the quality of the foods that they serve even if they aren’t as unique as some other places. And each thing they serve you will swear is the best.
3) Amor Y Tacos – Cerritos
Executive chef Thomas Ortega has created a little bit of love in the City of Cerritos. With an eye for the unique, Ortega has created a little slice of heaven with his unique culinary talents. All of his tortillas and chips are made fresh at the locations, and with a unique batch of salsas you can flavor all of these fabulous foods with. But his food speaks for itself and your mouth will sing his praises once you have tried one of his many taco offerings. I really like the Short Rib and the Tinga but the Carne Asada can stand with the best of them. Definitely a go to place I keep coming back to.
2) Oscar’s Mexican Seafood – San Diego
When you make your way south as you head towards Mexico, you will find sea food tacos you cannot believe. They melt in your mouth and make your taste buds do a dance all at the same time. Oscar’s in San Diego does just that. With Octopus, Steak, Shrimp, Grilled Fish, and even a surf and turf option, you cannot go wrong digging into the delights that Oscar’s has to offer. I always love the unique so I have to go for the Octopus tacos. But that’s just a personal preference. Anything they have served I have absolutely loved.
1) Guerrilla Tacos – Various Locations throughout Los Angeles
I know it’s a little misleading saying Guerrilla Tacos is everywhere, but it’s a taco truck. And I don’t think I could complete a list of best foods without something from an amazing truck. Now some of the best and most unique foods are served up by executive chefs running throughout LA and Orange County in trucks. While not always easy to find, they usually serve up some of the best foods in the region.
The great thing about Guerrilla Tacos is the richness and variety they create with each and every taco. And what’s more, they focus on seasonal fare so their menu changes all the time. For someone who loves variety, I cannot get enough of the tacos they serve. From swordfish to tripe and everything in between you will get a panoply of flavors with each and every visit. Definitely a must go to in the LA area.
Continue The Conversation –
So what did you think of the fake history of the taco? Is your mouth watering just like mine is at the very mention of one? What is your favorite kind of taco and why? As always, I love hearing from you. And if you have a spot locally in your area that I should try, let me know. I love knowing about great places to eat, everywhere.
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If you liked this post, please check out some of my other food holiday posts. You will get a rich array of foods and numerous ways to celebrate. Plus, like me at the end of this post. And don’t forget to follow the Guide as you will get email updates. Followers via email will get access to the Dad Rules. Plus, they get a bi-weekly newsletter dealing with the latest happenings at the Guide. Thank you for stopping by.
Until next time, this is me signing off . . . and running to get a taco.
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life