Mexican Taco, Wrapped in a Paradox of its Time

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Who doesn’t like tacos? For many of us who do, taco Tuesday has become a regular date night for the family, friends, and co-workers or even for couples who like to enjoy a buffet of tacos in a taco bar.

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Taco is usually consists of soft or crunchy folded tortilla filled with choice of seasoned meat and freshly cut vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes and onions with toppings like shredded cheese or sour cream or both. This is a very versatile meal so other veggies can be added too like beans, avocado or guacamole, corn, green peppers, or sliced olives.

But do we know the tacos that we all know today are already the American version? They are tacos on American terms?

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We love to eat tacos. We talk about how we love this food and created so many versions of the dish such as taco salad, taco burrito, taco casserole, breakfast taco, taco pasta salad, chicken taco, and others alike.

However, there is one side to the tacos that we seldom talk about or maybe don’t want to talk about – how about the heritage and the people who brought this food into the American tables? Seemingly, it’s not too “safe” to talk about them.

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Taco was first brought into this country by Mexicans working in the mines; hence it was first called taco minero or miner’s taco. The wives of these miners brought with them their regional cooking skills and recipes to feed their families. The earliest tacos (the authentic version) were made with thin slices of meat cooked over the hot coals. The meat was then placed in a soft corn tortilla and topped with salsa, onions, guacamole, and lime. Nowadays, this taco is known as the carne asada taco.

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Taco has come a long way into the mainstream American food from simply being a working class (miners) food. It has assimilated itself more effectively and faster than the people who brought them here. I am talking about social acceptance. In the 21st century, taco is more widely accepted among the American people as compared to the Mexican people who introduced this cuisine to the American palates. Whether we openly admit it or not, the general perception towards Mexicans (and even maybe towards other minorities) is not as widely favorable as compared to the general perception towards tacos.

I’m sure we can bring up a lot of underlying reasons to this phenomenon but my point being is that ethnic cuisines are always subject to preferencial adaptations to suit the tastes of the new world. The same happened to General Tso chicken. The authentic version of this dish in China is way too different from how we know of it today in America.

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The Americans love authentic food especially those with adventurous palates who are not afraid to try out-of-the-box ethnic and exotic dishes from around the world. However, foreign cuisines will always be subjected to social prejudices of the host or receiving country whether such biases are of racial or economic in nature. Is this fair or normal or neither? What do you think?

BEEF TACO MEAT
Yield:  5-6 Servings

Ingredients
* Hamburger or ground beef – 2 lbs
* Flour – 2 tbsp.
* Worcestershire sauce – 1 tbsp.
* Spices: Garlic powder (1 tsp); Onion powder (1 tsp); Oregano (1 tsp); Paprika (1 tbsp); Cumin powder (2 tbsp); Chili powder (1/2 tsp);  Cilantro flakes (1/4 cup) OR
* Taco seasoning (packet) – ¼ cup or as you desire
* Salt and pepper – to taste

Instructions
1. Brown the hamburger in a skillet.
2. After 2 minutes, add all the spices above or taco seasoning of your choice.
3. Adjust the taste with salt and pepper. Add more chili for more spicy taste.
4. Add the flour to the meat mixture. This will hold the meat together.
5. Right before serving, cut all the vegetables of your choice for the toppings.
6. Shredded cheese can be included as one of the toppings.
7. For the dressing, a bowl of melted cheese or sour cream is a popular choice or both.
8. For melted cheese I usually use canned cheddar cheese sauce usually in the Hispanic isle of most stores.
9. Don’t forget to warm up the tortilla in the heated skillet with no oil.

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