Mark Dery on Taco Bell

Mark Dery says:

" just posted my personal essay "Remembrance of Tacos
Past," a cultural critique-cum-social history of Taco Bell that
attempts to illuminate the mystery clouding the American Mind: How can
a partial-birth monstrosity like Taco Bell's Crunchwrap Supreme survive
in a country flooded by Mexican immigrants, where the Real Thing
(authentic Mexican food) is easier and easier to find, at least in most
big cities?"

Picture 1-98
Before I bite into my Original Taco, I perform a "CSI"-like necropsy of it, anxiously examining what the Taco Bell menu insists is "crisp, shredded lettuce" and what I insist is limp, dispirited lettuce. Dissecting it with my fork, I probe the "real cheddar cheese" (accept no substitutes!) and tiny mound — a tablespoonful or two, at most — of what is purportedly "seasoned ground beef."

I think of the Carolina highway patrolman who found a freshly hawked lunger, courtesy of one disgruntled employee, dangling from one of his Taco Bell nachos. I think of the scores of people poisoned, in 2006, by the E. coli outbreak in Taco Bells throughout the nation. I think of the plague of rats gamboling contentedly around a Greenwich Village Taco Bell; NBC reporter Adam Shapiro described one showboating rodent climbing onto an upside-down stool, then dangling from it "like a gymnast." Cute, in a Willard meets "Ratatouille" sort of way.

With these thoughts as an amuse-bouche, I take my first bite. I chomp through the millimeter-thin shell, flavorful as corn-fed cardboard and eerily crunchless in the soggy-armpit humidity of a New York summer. Chewing, I ruminate on the L.A. Weekly food writer Jonathan Gold's comment to me, "I don't think there's any such thing as authentic Mexican food" — this from a Pulitzer Prize-winning critic who also told me, with palpable excitement, about his lard connection, a guy who sells "manteca de carnitas … the liquid lard rendered in the process of making carnitas [fried pork], liquid gold. I fried a few batches of chicken in it last night, accompanied by fiery red salsa and homemade tortillas, and I'm pretty sure I saw god herself."


Previously on Boing Boing:

Mark Dery's reading list

Mark Dery on toes

Mark Dery on the netporn crit conference

Mark Dery on the "Not One More Damn Dime" boycott

Mark Dery's Wunderkammer

Mark Dery on spam literature

Mark Dery on Paradise Lust

Jonathan Gold praises lardo

Jonathan Gold on Okonomiyaki (aka Japanese pizza)

Dorkbake competition wrap-up