Why Are We Obsessed with Tacos? Here Are Five Ideas.

Written by Niki D'Andrea Category: Lists Issue: September 2016
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Tacos at Barrio UrbanoIt’s Taco Tuesday! Chances are, your Facebook feed is filled with memes celebrating this unofficial but extremely well-observed holiday. Few culinary cultural appropriations are more beloved than tacos (except maybe pizza – maybe). Not only do tacos get their own day of the week, but they get feted in festivals perhaps more than any other food. There are three taco fests in the Valley in the next month alone. In the East Valley this Saturday, September 17, the Rockin’ Taco Street Fest hits Dr. A.J. Chandler Park; the Tequila, Taco and Cerveza Festival rides into Rawhide Western Town on October 1; and the biggest taco party, the Arizona Taco Festival , takes over Salt River Fields on October 15 and 16.

Why do we love tacos so much? What is it about these tortillas rolled around fillings that makes them so irresistible? We’ll leave the real pondering to the food psychologists (yes, that’s a thing), but here’s a handful of hypotheses:

#1: Tacos are completely customizable.

Want fries with that? Seriously, you could put your fries in that. Or you could go with ingredients llike crumbled beef, carne asada steak, fish, shrimp, pork or veggies. You can choose from hard- or soft-shell tacos, flour or corn tortillas, and tons of topping options – lettuce, cheese, sour cream, tomatoes, onions, a plethora of peppers, etc. There’s pretty much nothing you can’t do to a taco. It’s the most accommodating and friendliest of foods.

#2: They are fun finger food.

Humans didn’t always have sporks. There’s something sublimely primal about grabbing fist-size food and shoving it our mouths, getting grease on our fingers and wiping shredded cheese from our chins with satisfied grins. And texturally terrific tacos are meant to be eaten out of your hands. The spork’s just there for scooping up the mess.

#3: They go great with tequila.

And most other forms of alcohol, but particularly tequila, because it’s a taste of tradition. Like tacos, tequila is diverse, a free spirit that can be taken straight in shots, used in margaritas, infused with a smoky smorgasbord of flavors, and put into an almost endless array of craft cocktails.

Taco at Joyride Taco House#4: Tacos save lives.

Back in June, police in Mexico City persuaded a drunk and suicidal man who was about to jump off a bridge to go eat with them. After admitting to officers in Spanish “Yeah, I’m craving some [tacos],” the man came down off the ledge, ate some tacos, and was taken to a mental health facility for treatment. True story.

#5: We could have taco trucks on every corner.

Always having delicious tacos just a short stroll away is an achievable dream, if the obsession stays strong. Marco Gutierrez, founder of Latinos for Trump, recently said in an interview on MSNBC, “My culture is a very dominant culture, and it’s imposing and it’s causing problems. If you don’t do something about it, you’re going to have taco trucks on every corner.” And most Americans would freaking looove that. As the “New York Times” pointed out in one of many articles various media published about the #TacoTrucksOnEveryCorner social media trend early this month, salsa sales have been higher than ketchup sales at grocery stores for more than 25 years. Americans have an enduring and passionate appetite for Mexican food, and line up at lunchtime to crunch carne asada tacos and such. I mean, what else you could possibly put on every corner that would be almost universally loved? The guys dancing around with cardboard signs for smoke shops and tax preparation companies don’t have salsa.

Pictured: Cochinita pibil tacos with fries at Barrio Urbano (top); carne asada taco at Joyride Taco House (bottom). Photos by Niki D’Andrea.