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Mexicans celebrate national 'Taco Day'

Nobody knows who invented the nixtamal, the doughy corn mass that is the essential ingredient. But there's a book, La Tacopedia, that has all there is to know about tacos.
Déborah Holtz, director of Trilce Ediciones, a publishing house specializing in books on popular culture, art, and poetry. Editor of the book 'La Tacopedia.'
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When one thinks what unites Mexicans, hundreds of answers come to mind: some may say that it is the land. the national anthem or soccer but the truth is that no one would dare to argue that what really unites us is the taco.

Far from being an inconsequential dish, the taco concentrates the ancestral history of Mexico adapted to the times and the country’s different regions. There is not a corner of the country or any place where there are Mexicans who do not boast of having their own special taco.

Be it for the tortilla, the content in its many variations or for the sauce - the holy trinity that comes together to make up the taco - it becomes the pretext for a way of living together, communicating and finally eating.

The idea of creating an encyclopedia of the taco arose as it should: in a taqueria at 5:00 a.m. following the end of a party. Amazed by the skill of the taqueros, the tortilla makers, and even the cleaning staff, I thought that this choreography, coupled with the sleepless diners, revealed a culture and a way of understanding life. Surely no one had gone to the University of Fast Food and yet all did their work with such precision so that a warm taco arrived in seconds at the table.

And this is what had to be represented in a book whose indisputable title would have to be La Tacopedia.

History, popular sayings, the types of tacos, the regional differences and a myriad of considerations came into play. What is a taco? Although it seems obvious, the debate can be arduous: a rolled tortilla that may or may not contain content because many will argue that if it is good, with a little salt, it’s enough.

Nobody knows the hero or heroes who invented the nixtamal, this moldable mass of hominy dough that for centuries was also used as a spoon. If we knew, hundreds of statues would have been erected in his honor. We enjoy its undeniable nutritional benefits and its infinite versatility. Imagine the strength of the taquera tradition of the ancient Mexicans that when the Spanish conquerors introduced the wheat, it was immediately transformed into a flour tortilla. Also, until then unknown animals, such as cows, pigs, chickens and other species were immediately rolled up in a taco.

The Tacopedia lists the main types of tacos. Using criteria including the region, the content that is used -- meat, fish, vegetables or insects-- and the form of preparation, 16 principal types, each of course with millions of variations, were identified. From Jalisco barbecue, to the Sonoran chimichangas or the Yucatecan cochinita, each one has a fascinating history and a typical way of being prepared. This very diverse mosaic finally revealed to the research and editing team that the map of Mexico was actually the map of their tacos: the Tacography or the geography of the taco. You just have to take a quick look to understand the richness of this tradition.

The prime ingredients of the taco, the sauces and all the vast world of accessories that closes this virtuous trinity, parade their thirty-six examples without of course ignoring the eternal debate about the guacamole. Already President Barack Obama tweeted in protest because some New York Times columnist came up with the idea that guacamole should have peas!

Finally the sayings, customs and derived products of the taco are omnipresent. For example, a smug person is recognized as the one who "throws a lot of cream on his tacos" or as "the one who gives himself his taco," a person who knows how to grab a taco "shows that he has a good appetite,” etc.

That is why it is not surprising that there is not a Chop Suey, Pizza or Hamburger Day and that today we celebrate worldwide, the great Taco Day.

Let’s go eat some tacos!