Save for those rare occasions when you stumble upon somewhere exceptional, our experience of Mexico’s cultural and culinary symbol is on the whole basic. Living in Europe, we’ve been exposed to a type of Tex-Mex, “a tradition born in the U.S. that certainly has its rare pleasures”, according to Noma founder, René Redzepi. “But imagine that variant being sent through a game of intercontinental telephone akin to Chinese whispers.” The result is barely a signifier of its original copy.
The taco is by no means an informal, roadside food—the artist Maris Bustamante patented the taco as her “weapon of cultural penetration” in 1971—and yet, the end of a party isn’t complete without a pit stop at a taqueria, say Deborah Holtz and Juan Carlos Mena authors of Tacopedia.
A new book cataloguing its evolution and regional variations, through Tacopedia‘s pages we learn that tacos were invented between 1000 and 500 B.C. as a kind of edible spoon, recipes and flavour combinations have been passed down from generations, and that it’s a food that is deep rooted in the culture and history of Mexico.
Rene described his first bite into a “real” taco in the Mexican town of Mérida as a moment he would always remember. Sitting in a plastic chair, legs dug into the sand beneath him, with a cold beer in hand, the co-owner of the two-Michelin star restaurant called that combination of fresh leaves, the rich umami character of the meat, thinly sliced pineapple and a few sparing drops of orange habanero juice as “the perfect bite.”
Tacopedia by Deborah Holtz and Juan Carlos Mena is published by Phaidon