It’s Taco Day 2019! This is a day not just to celebrate one of the most popular foods in the world, but also to appreciate its history and inclusion into the American kitchen. The USA pays homage to one of the coolest foods on the planet by celebrating it every year on October the 4th.
We’ve put together a little research to get you acquainted with the celebration, answer the ancient enigma of what makes a taco “a taco,” and give you some ideas on how to celebrate this day.
Tacos 101: The First Tacos
Obviously, it is impossible to track down who ate the first taco or who made the first taco in history. Suffice to say that the confection of similar corn-based dishes dates back to the time of pre-Columbian civilizations such as the Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas, just to name a few.
We could even go back thousands of years to the time when humans became hunters and gatherers. Once our ancestors learned how to grow grains, vegetables, corn, rice, beans, and other foods became typical staples.
So, for starters, the idea of coming up with a corn-based flat piece of food that has the capacity of holding food is definitely not a new thing.
What are the Different Types of Tacos?
Tacos have come a long way since their first appearance as the food of our Meso-American ancestors. Here are some examples of the most common tacos you may find in your traditional Mexican restaurant menu:
Tacos Al Pastor: “Shepherd Style Tacos”
These are soft tacos (soft flour tortilla) with pineapple and roasted pork. It is a Lebanese/Mexican fusion dish.
Carnitas: “Meat Strips/Chunks
These are flour tortillas topped with deep fried pork chunks.
Al Buche: “From the belly”
Typically these are either soft or hard shell tacos topped with pork belly meat, which makes the meat chewy like stew.
So, What Makes a Taco a “Taco?”
The easy answer: Anything that consists of a corn tortilla topped by a meat.
How to Observe National Taco Day
Celebrate Taco Day with a Taco Trivia and Tasting Night! Hit your local party/dollar store and get all the taco decor you can get. Put it all up and check out these great ideas for the best National Taco Day Celebration ever!
Use these Taco 101 facts to host a taco night on October 4, and make it Taco Trivia (and tasting) Night!
The meaning of the word “taco” is, literally, “plug.” Tacos, as we now know them, were the easiest food to feed Mexican miners in the 19th century. The origin of the name is not officially known, but there are two theories: 1) it comes from the name miners gave to paper wads that they (miners) used to stuff holes in the mines. 2) it comes from a word used by Europeans “atraco” or “ataco” as it refers to eating a huge meal. It is still unknown.
According to historians, the first tacos were stuffed with fish. This was historically documented by Bernal Diaz del Castillo, who worked under the command of Conquistador Hernan Cortez. It seems that their first community feast included fish wrapped in corn tortillas. Fish tacos!
Tortillas go back nearly 10,000 years, and were the primary food of the Aztecs. Why tortillas? Well, corn is high in sugar and carbohydrates. This means that the nutrients in corn and other grains encompassed the fuel that fired up the very busy bodies of the Meso-American people. Plus, corn is versatile enough to be made into almost anything – from bread to flats.
Mexican street tacos are not super hot and spicy. The prevailing flavors should be the sweetness of the corn tortilla, the meat, the lime juice and the herbal, cilantro finishing touch.
Taco Tasting Night
Here is another idea for your Taco Trivia Night for National Taco Day! Have your guests learn or guess the differences between a traditional taco from a more modern version of it.
You could make both kinds of tacos for your party and let your guests vote for their favorite. Here are the basics, so you know what fixings to get.
The modern, more commercial version of tacos:
A hard shell
Shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes
Shredded cheese and sour cream
A typical Mexican street taco:
A soft, corn tortilla
No ruffage (veggies)
No dairy (no cheese, sour cream)
Steak slices, chicken breast, roasted pork- this meat is normally marinated for hours, if not days.
Toppings include lime juice (you squeeze it yourself on the taco) and cilantro leaves.
The Taco Station
Set up a long table and place the ingredients that you will need to create a taco station for your guests.
Have a crockpot with ground beef, seasoned with adobo and taco seasoning, warm and ready for your guests on one side of the table.
On the other side, have a variety of meats served on chafing dishes to keep them warm.
Offer both types of taco shells, the crunchy and the corn, soft tortillas, and keep them warm by covering them up with foil or a clean kitchen towel.
Lastly, have a salsa, lettuce, tomato and cilantro section, and optional cheeses and sour cream.
Celebrate National Taco Day with friends and family and enjoy this awesome chance to enjoy great food and great company while also learning a bit of culinary history!