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Professor: Tacos are THE Global Food

12:38 PM PST on February 17, 2010

Professor Jeffrey Pilcher is one of the world's authorities on Latin American foods, food migration, and general foodstuffs and he has come to a shocking conclusion: Tacos are the single most important food known to man. That may be overstating his case somewhat, but as the primary website trumpeting the global taco lifestyle, we feel entitled to crow a bit when academic research finally catches up to what we've known for years- tacos are the future of the universe. An excerpt from an article on Prof Pilcher:

You can find tacos in outer Mongolia, Amsterdam, Addis Ababa and Australia -- even in outer space (the latter thanks to NASA). They have, in fact, become as ever present as the hamburger.

And that's the rub. They no longer seem Mexican, but American, says Jeffrey Pilcher, a University of Minnesota history professor who will give a talk about "Planet Taco" on Tuesday.

Indeed, the taco revolution spread globally -- and extraterrestrially -- via entrepreneurial Americans and U.S. companies, not Mexicans. That might explain why, in part, the rest of the world looks at that overstuffed hard-shell taco spilling over with lettuce, tomato and Cheddar cheese and thinks "American."

(Not so incidentally, Mexicans migrate almost entirely to the United States, Pilcher noted. If Americans hadn't traveled with their tacos, he says he would be offering a very different history lesson.)

Fifty years ago, Mexican food could be found only in Mexico, California or the Southwest, including small roadside stands where tacos were sold. Los Angeles phone books from 1950 reflect the abundance of these taco spots. These were the very early days of food franchises. (Ray Kroc started the McDonald's chain in 1954.) Glen Bell, the founder of Taco Bell and a fellow Californian, had an idea. Today we think of tacos as the lowest common denominator of Mexican food -- well, maybe that would, or should, be nachos -- but he was cutting-edge at a time when the rest of America was dining on tuna casserole, mac-and-cheese and cream of tomato soup.

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