In Australia, tacos are an incredibly popular street food. If there is a food truck festival you can guarantee there will be a taco truck and a queue of devotees willing to wait in line for as long as it takes to get their hands on some. Tacos are the perfect ‘food on the go’ and they’re pretty good for you as well! But have you ever stopped to give a thought to the history of tacos? Have you ever wondered why this convenient and delicious Mexican street food, eaten with your hands, came to be and who was the genius behind the taco?
The thing is, no one is absolutely certain about the history of tacos. Sorry!
According to Mexican food aficionado and professor of history at the University of Minnesota, Jeffrey M. Pilcher, tacos first appeared some time during the 18th century in the silver mines of Mexico. 1 In those mines the word ‘taco’ referred to the little handmade explosives they would use to blast the ore from the ground. Much like a tortilla wrapped taco, filled with cooked meat, fresh vegetables and condiments, the explosives were made from small pieces of paper wrapped around gunpowder that the miners would plug into the rock face.
Another theory is that tacos were first cooked around the 1500s. 2 They say that these earliest tacos were made with thin slices of meat cooked over coals wrapped in a corn tortilla.
The spread of Tacos
The taste for tacos spread across Mexico and regionalised fillings and versions began to appear. Tacos grew in popularity with the advent of the ‘taquería’ or taco shops in Mexico City. Women who had moved into the city for work from regional areas of Mexico brought their recipes with them to sell their own personalised variety of tacos. These women eventually made Mexico City a taco hub, with many different styles and kinds of tacos on the menu.
But what about hard tacos?
Well, we’re afraid that hard tacos are a relatively new invention. And, hard tacos are not authentic Mexican food. Hard tacos were invented in the mid 1900s in the United States as an alternative to soft tortillas because they didn’t stay fresh for very long.
History of Tacos fact: Did you know that Americans eat 4.5 billion tacos a year?3
Happy taco eating!