The Terrific Taco: Taking Us to the Moon and Back

We all love tacos.

In fact, last year Americans ate as many as 4.5 billion tacos.

Wholemeal brown tortilla wrap

That is millions eaten every day.

Equal the weight of not one—but two—Empire State Buildings.

490,000 miles of tacos that could literally take you to the moon and back.

People love tacos so much that we thought it would be fitting to celebrate National Taco Day (October 4th) in whole food, plant-based style.

What Is a Taco Exactly?

AvacadoA taco is essentially a tortilla (made from corn or wheat) with ‘something’ wrapped inside.

That ‘something’ has traditionally been meat-based (beef, pork, chicken or even fish) but tacos can also be filled with healthful plant-based ingredients.

A taco is generally eaten with your hands and accompanied with a variety of garnishes including salsa, guacamole, cilantro, tomatoes, onions, and lettuce.

The most common type of taco in the US is the hard shell, U-shaped version that was first described in a cookbook called The Good Life: New Mexican Food written by Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Gilbert and published in 1949. 

Another form is the soft shell taco, which is usually a corn tortilla cooked by grilling or steaming.

The History of the Taco

AvocadoHistorians disagree about the history of the taco

In fact, no one really knows where the word ‘taco’ comes from although some suggest that it is derived from the Nahuatl ‘tlachco’ meaning ‘half’ or ‘in the middle.’

According to anthropologists, tacos predate the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico. They believe that people who lived in the lake region of the Valley of Mexico ate tacos that were filled with small fish.

Others argue that tacos date back to the 18th century and the Mexican silver mines. 

That is because the word ‘taco’ refers to the little explosives (pieces of paper wrapped around gunpowder) that were used to excavate the ore. It is believed that the hotly-spiced taco reminded the miners of a stick of dynamite.

To buttress this argument is the fact that taco did not even appear in any dictionary or archive until the end of the 19th century. And one of the first types of tacos mentioned was the ‘tacos de minero’ (the miner’s tacos).

Tacos reached the US in 1905 when Mexican migrants came to work in the mines and railroads.

One of the first taco trucks is thought to have arrived in New York in 1966 when two housewives started up a taco business. At the time, Mexican food was viewed as lower class street food—a bit different from today where the taco enjoys great mass appeal!    

Dr. Rosane Oliveira and Spicy Lentil TacosHow to Celebrate National Taco Day

It is safe to say that the best way to celebrate National Taco Day is to eat a taco.

And how about making that the healthiest version possible?

We recommend our plant-based interpretation of the terrific taco called Spicy Lentil Tacos.

It will take you ‘to the moon and back.’

Enjoy and Happy National Taco Day!