Posts Tagged With: Tortilla

277/365: National Taco Day*

Even gringos will shout “ole!” when digging into today’s food of honor. October 4 is National Taco Day!

It’s also National Vodka Day, and that’s a shame; a more appropriate pairing would be tequila or margaritas, but alas, both have already had their day in the sun. Tacos always sound good, but vodka is tasteless, so we had no problem deciding which of today’s dual food holidays we would celebrate.

Viva la taco!

Tacos originated in Mexico (duh) and consist of a tortilla wrapped around a filling. The name is generic; like a “sandwich,” a taco can consist of pretty much anything that fits inside the tortilla. The sky’s the limit when it comes to ingredients and toppings; popular fillings include beef, pork, chicken, and seafood, and toppings such as lettuce, onions, tomatoes, salsa, guacamole, and sour cream are all common. The word “taco” originated in 18th century Mexican silver mines; it was the name given to an explosive charge that was wrapped in paper, filled with gunpowder, and used to break up the ore. The tortilla-and-meat combo resembled this little bomb (and could also be considered a “gut bomb” in its own right, depending on the spiciness level). Tacos date back centuries; early inhabitants of the Valley of Mexico enjoyed theirs with small fish, while residents of Morelos and Guerrero preferred live insects such as ants (shudder), and those in Puebla and Oaxaca opted for locusts and snails. The first taco recipes in the U.S. appeared in California in 1914; in Bertha Haffner-Ginger’s California Mexican-Spanish Cookbook, tacos were described as “made by putting chopped cooked beef and chili sauce in a tortilla made of meal and flour; folded, edges sealed together with egg; fried in deep fat, chile sauce served over it.” Tacos became especially popular in America after World War II, where Mexican-Americans introduced them to their caucasian soldier buddies. (We, in turn, gave them Twinkies).

To celebrate, Tara and I headed into Portland to check out ¿Por Que No?, a tacqueria that gets a lot of good press and that we had been meaning to try for some time. They did not disappoint! We sampled carnitas, chicken, chorizo, and brisket tacos amongst us, and found them all to be very good. Best of all, the line that usually snakes halfway down the block was only about a dozen people deep when we arrived, so we didn’t have too terribly long a wait to contend with.

National Taco Day

Categories: Too Weird to Categorize | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

55/365: National Tortilla Chip Day

The only food holiday today is, thankfully, devoted to humans. February 24 is National Tortilla Chip Day. Viva la celebracion!

People often use the terms “corn chips” and “tortilla chips” interchangeably, but as I explained during National Corn Chip Day last month, there is a difference: though both are made from corn, tortilla chips go through a process called nixtamalization, in which they are soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution such as quicklime, making them thinner and crispier. This process was first developed by the ancient Aztecs and, while I could go into a long and scientific explanation over how it is crucial in converting bound niacin to free niacin and preventing a vitamin deficiency disease called pelagra, I’d probably just scare you away from Fritos, which do not go through the same process, and I don’t want to do that because corn chips are tasty, too! Credit for the invention of tortilla chips goes to Rebecca Webb Carranza, who owned a tortilla factory with her husband in Los Angeles. Tired of the tortillas rejected by the automated tortilla manufacturing machine going to waste, she took these scraps, cut them into triangular shapes after her first choice – pentagrams – proved too controversial and her second choice, octagons, too complicated. She fried them up and sold them for ten cents a bag. In 1994, Carranza received the prestigious Golden Tortilla Award for her contribution to the Mexican food industry. Just a few decades ago tortilla chips were rarely eaten, but they gained popularity in the 1970s and now are as ubiquitous in Mexican restaurants as sombreros hanging on the walls and piped-in mariachi music. They are typically served with a dip such as salsa, guacamole, or lime jello, or turned into nachos. Tortilla chips are usually made with yellow or white corn, though blue and red corn varieties also exist. Beware the green corn tortilla chips: that’s just mold, amigo. You should toss those ASAP.

For today’s celebration, Tara and I enjoyed a late afternoon snack of corn chips with salsa and queso. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

Tortilla chips

Categories: Snacks | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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