Snapper Friday: Respect The Tortilla, Stop Folding Food and Calling It a Taco
1:00 PM PST on March 6, 2020
Welcome back to Snapper Fridays, a column at L.A. Taco where we make an exception to our generally positive posts and call things out for the greater good. For this installment, our Director of Partnerships Memo Torres keeps it real with everyone who is folding foodstuffs and passing it off as a taco.
[dropcap size=big]W[/dropcap]e have a huge problem in this country: More and more people are folding random foodstuffs and calling it a taco.
They are making a gimmickry of one of the most beloved and culturally important foods in the world—and all for personal gain. It’s appropriation, it’s disrespectful, and it's infuriating.
I’m talking about straight-up taco perversions like this bastard child from Belgium bakers over at Vive La Tarte, the MFing “Tacro.” It's a folded croissant stuffed with food. I had the breakfast tacro, it sucked. The flavor was scrambled out of the eggs, the guacamole was a “guac,” meaning paste-y rather than chunky, and I’ve had Hidden Valley granola bars that held up better than that bread. By even the most basic of taco standards, a good taco has a good tortilla—or two—that doesn’t fall apart and it’s not served with a fork and knife. By these two standards alone, as a taco, the tacro is a catastrophic fail.
But nothing spells out appropriation and disrespect better than this fact about the tacro. When it came time to decide if they would go forth with the idea of making tacros, they had a moment where they considered the sanctity of, not the taco, but of the croissant. In a feature by The Washington Post.
“Before innovating, it’s important to respect the traditional croissant and know what makes the traditional croissant exquisite,” he said . . . While he knows it would probably ruffle feathers in his homeland, “That’s one of the things that I love about working in the States. It’s more about ‘Why not?’ than ‘Why are you doing this?’ ”
Listen up Goethals, I got your “Why not” right here: The fact that you demonstrate your concern for respecting, how did you put it, “l’arte des croissants,” while showing complete disregard for the Taco makes you the epitome of a white european colonizer attitude towards other cultures and the food that defines them. Don’t bust a Kooks Burritos in Portland, Oregon. The croissant isn’t even Belgium in origin, it’s from Austria (yeah I Googled that shit), yet he had more concern for that European bread than what makes the taco exquisite.
After all, Taco Bell did the 'tacro' first in 2015.
You can attribute Vive Le Tarte’s success to this stupid gimmick and the national attention it’s gotten with Eater, The New York Times, Zagat, Food Insider, The Huffington Post, but never for L.A Taco. Because we take our Taco Life very seriously. The best headline is from Buzzfeed’s article titled, “I Hate To Admit It, But This Hipster AF Taco Croissant Looks Amazing.”
Vive La Tarte has gained so much fame because of the tacro that they are trying to trademark it in fears that someone will copy it. It’s a valid fear for them to have considering they may have done that themselves. After all, Taco Bell did the Tacro in 2015 and in textbook appropriation methods, take something that’s been done before, steal it for yourself, and make it illegal for others to replicate.
The fact is they need to make their croissants cool and attractive by folding it into a taco because their croissants alone suck. I hope there’s a croissant lover in France revolting against the Vive le Tarte screaming “Basie ton tacro” from the top of the Eiffel Tower.
I also gotta call out gimmikateers like Josh Elkin. His Instagram page has almost a quarter of a million followers and the food looks like a stoner raided his roommate's leftovers and made a munchies meal. It’s all clickbait concoctions.
Since last year, Josh has been on a tear with his version of folded food and calling it “tacos” for the Cinco de Mayo of weekdays, Taco Tuesday. Anything and everything was folded and stuffed with random food and called a taco. Like this folded piece of Chicken. He smashed and folded a bagel with lox and cream and called it a bagel taco. Here are nine more examples of him folding anything and calling it a taco for Taco Tuesday. He’s a serial taco offender number one and he’s doing it for the clout. I wish he’d just stick to ruining USDA prime strip steak with cheese whiz on a pizza and leave tacos alone. (Seriously, he did that.)
While we’re at it, people need to leave burritos alone too! Like this abomination, the Bagelrito. It’s a freaking hot pocket! I don’t know what’s cringier, the idea that people want to make shitty food cool by naming it after Mexican food or the ad campaign for the Bagelrito, which includes the line “Are you ready to take the flavor train to yummy town?” As L.A. Times writer Patricia I. Escácega pointed out, “Sounds like the world’s worst come-on line.” Thinking about it, this would be a good bio for Guy Fieri’s Tinder profile.
A taco, at its most fundamental, is defined by a folded tortilla.
Want more examples of how non-tortilla based folded things and calling them tacos are just gimmicks? There’s the Big Mac taco, where they smash and fold the bun, cut up the pattie and put the sauce and lettuce and pickles in the fold. How about these things, folded ham stuffed with mashed potatoes. And it’s not just white Americans, raza does shit too. I’ve seen pupuserias every now and then fold a pupusa, put meat on top, and call it a 'Tacusa.' You don’t need to do that to a pupusa, pupusas are amazing on their own. Respect pupusitas..
By now I can hear you saying, “So then you don’t like innovation? You don’t like anything new? I saw you like that birria ramen and al pastor pizza and those dessert tacos.” Well, this is what I say to you.
I am not against mixing different foods from different cultures. I’m all for it. Mid East tacos? Bring them on; they’re using tortillas. That al pastor pizza wasn’t ruined by being folded and called a Taquizza. The dessert tacos from Evil Cooks are actually made with a 50/50 corn-flour tortilla mix.
Which gets me to your final question, “So what counts as a taco?” I can’t believe I have to do this, by the way.
If you google the definition, visit dictionary.com, or Mirriam Webster, they don’t get it right. They write: “A usually fried tortilla that is folded or rolled and stuffed with a mixture (as of seasoned meat, cheese, and lettuce).” They are describing a specific type of Tex-Mex taco with an ignorant disregard to tacos’ incredible versatility.
A taco, at its most fundamental, is defined by a folded tortilla. It can have almost any toppings. Guisados is a great example; you can make any stew, put it on a tortilla and bam, you made a taco. Tacos de weenie? Yes. Those of us that grew up poor know. I mean you can do so many things with a taco. Why go the route of trying to take something that’s not a taco and fold it?
Point being, respect the tortilla. It is to food what the wheel is to man. It’s the vessel that takes the taco to new places. It’s 50 percent of a taco. Don’t fuck it up or disrespect it with your poor judgment and lazy imagination.
If you want to come at me with, “Well what about the burrito, foo? That’s got a tortilla and it’s folded. Is that a taco too?” You know what? As Texas Monthly’s taco editor, Jose Ralat, recently had to defend, “A Burrito Is Indeed a Taco.” It’s the evolution of a taco. When I’d go to my abuelas, she’d always heat up a flour tortilla, scoop on whatever food she had on the stove, be it fideo, frijoles, huevito con nopales, topped it off with a little queso ranchero and salsa de tomatillo, rolled it up into what you would recognize as a burrito and said, “Toma mi’jo, hechate un taco” translated to “Here son, have a taco.”
I will concede, like most rules, there are a few exceptions I’m willing to accept. I’m talking about the use of cheese or lettuce as a tortilla for the keto tacos. Why? Have you ever had a lettuce wrapped hamburger? Still a hamburger right? And nobody is trying to call it Lettaco or a Tacheeso.
To those of you who complain about so-called ”fusion” tacos, I also say to you: Don’t limit the endless possibilities of the tortilla. Just because it's a new taco, whether it is cheap or Alta Cocina, that doesn’t disqualify it as a taco and it doesn’t make it a “hipster taco.” Take the al Pastor Trompo for example. You’re telling me that when the Lebonese brought that to Mexico and a new taco was created, one of the first “Mid East '' tacos, you would have dismissed it as: “That’s hipster, no me gusta (I don’t like it)?“ Let’s not hold the taco back either.
Point being, respect the tortilla. It is to Mexican food what the wheel is to man. It’s the vessel that takes the taco to new places. It’s 50 percent of a taco. Don’t fuck it up or disrespect it with your poor judgment and lazy imagination.
In the words of my late grandpa, Papa Chuy, “He dicho.” (I’ve spoken).
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