Shakespeare once again stirs up controversy. Scholars now debate the number of words he coined. The current argument places the bard’s inventiveness at 1700 unique words. This down from 3200. Somewhere an English major weeps. However, this is not heart of the matter.
While computers running statistical algorithms may have reduced the quantitative measure of Shakespeare’s invention, they have left his qualitative genius in tact.
William turned nouns into verbs. And in doing so, we are struck with the familiar in a new context. Our understanding deepens and we move down the narrative path.
Austinites eat many tacos. Not surprising since the country of origin sits just beneath Texas. There is a large surface area by which the culture from Mexico migrates Northward. Even folks from Michigan recognize Tex-Mex unaided.
Now New Yorkers have found religion. Taco religion that is. Pete Wells from the New York Times chronicles the taco revolution occurring in the City just now. From wander-lust chefs plating traditional versions to re-interpretations of gastronomic miracles from Europe, it seems that New York is gobbling up street food with a passion.
And why not? October 4th was National Taco Day. We all knew that. Right?!
At least once, if not three times a week, my wallet feeds the cash register at Taco Deli. The taco meisters serve heavenly combinations of slow-cooked pork, spicy beef or heady chicken mole on your choice of tortilla: flour, wheat or corn. The breakfast taco menu is studded with their own combinations. Or you can invent your own. Ask for the Otto with some egg. John swears by it.
And never miss the Delibelly served only on Wednesday. Pork belly with honey and tomatillo laced with serrano salsa. Wow.
But let us unwrap this taco mystery.
According to Jeffrey M. Pilcher, professor of history at the University of Minnesota, the sun drenched people of Mexico first used the term “taco” in reference to gun powder wrapped with paper. So the word that describes the “boom” in your mouth comes from the explosives placed in silver mines. Or so the story goes.
Edible containers are to street vendors what trucks are to transportation companies. They serve as a means to deliver the payload. They vehicle.
Travel the globe and witness this resourcefulness play out again and again. Ethopians tear off a piece of injera to grab stewed meats or vegetables. No utensils here.
Order Moo-shu pork in China and you’ll be just as free from chopsticks or forks. Succulent, sweet shreds of pork with wood-ear mushrooms wait in a bowl for their time to be blanketed in a rice pancake.
It seems that the world knows how to taco. To wrap up yumminess in a steamy, round tortilla so that it can be shuttled immediately to the pie-hole.
Yes, we have crispy shells too. Whether sourced from food packaging giants like Ortega or Taco Bell, or the “puffy taco” variety from the well spring of the Navajo tribes, the concept of taco remains the same. A hand-to-mouth style of eating.
Don’t miss the big idea: anything can be taco-ed.
Give into your muse. Take that pedestrian salad for lunch and land it into a steamy corn tortilla. Revive that left-over roast with some crumbly Cotija a few shreds of cabbage. Surround it with the love of a butter tortilla. So long as it lands in a carbohydrate cove, you are good to go.
At our house, we channel meaty fish like swordfish or tuna straight from the grill onto a tortilla blended from both wheat and corn flours. The sauces depicted below come both Taco Deli (green) and the homemade “Awesome Sauce” by nephew Andrew (yellow).
It could have been Frank’s hot sauce and sour cream on a different day. No matter.
You are hereby released to follow whatever taco dream floats into conciousness. And consider yourself lucky.
Were Shakespeare as informed, then Hamlet’s soliloquy might have sounded more like this:
To taco, or not to taco. That is the question:
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Forks and Spoons of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Tortilla against a Spice of troubles,
And by wrapping end them: to dine, to savor
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