In the beginning
According to Aztec mythology, today’s man was created when the Mesoamerican god Quetzalcoatl took the broken remains of men from times past from Mictlan (the underworld) and brought them to Tamoanchan, home of the gods of creation. Quetzalcoatl handed the remains to the goddess Quilaztli who ground them down and mixed them with maize which contained the needed vitality to bring these new beings to life.
People of maize
This story on creation talks of the importance of the maize plant and the unique place it occupies in Mexican culture. Maize has become part of who we are and a way of expressing ourselves, none more so than in the versatile taco. A food that can be eaten as a main meal or as a snack, in a restaurant or on the street, at home or at work. When we speak of Mexican food, the taco must be mentioned.
Through the ages
Like many of the dishes that were developed before the clash of Hispanic and Pre-Columbian cultures, the history of the taco is unclear. However, it is thought that it dates back to Pre-Hispanic times. Their popularity rose as it was a food that could be easily transported when working the fields. Common taco fillings of the time included turkey, a domesticated animal of the indigenous population; and in areas like Oaxaca, grasshopper, an exotic food rich in protein and nutrients, that nowadays has become a popular accompaniment to the traditional Oaxacan spirit, mezcal.
Tacos and more tacos
Since then, the taco has been reinvented several times over and today there are hundreds of
ways to prepare them; al pastor (pork loin), de guisado (stewed meat), de barbacoa (barbequed meat), de carnitas (shredded meat), de pescado (fish) to name but a few. Whether made with corn flour or wheat flour, fried or steamed, just as they are or bathed in sauce, the diversity of the taco is a reflection of the diversity of the Mexican culture. And like other aspects of Mexican culture, the taco has spread beyond our borders like the crispy shell tacos found in Tex Mex cuisine and Taco Bell. They may not be the real deal but they have been inspired by this dish that has become an icon of Mexican cuisine, a part of Mexican life, and according to Aztec mythology, something of which we are made of.