L.A.'s First Taco Recipes From Early 1900s Uncovered
L.A. has long been a hotbed when it comes to taco culture, whether it be authentic-style tacos from street carts and taquerias, elevated fine dining renditions of the handheld treats, or unique fusion tacos sold on road stoves. Tacos are so popular here that there's even an annual March Madness competition dedicated to the craft hosted by the L.A. Taco blog.
But where did these revered street meats come from?
According to the author of Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food (Oxford University Press) Jeffrey M. Pilcher, the first tacos in the U.S. originated in Texas. The handheld foods themselves were actually miner's food.
He explains to the Smithsonian:
The taco dates from the 18th century and the silver mines in Mexico, because in those mines the word “taco” referred to the little charges they would use to excavate the ore. These were pieces of paper that they would wrap around gunpowder and insert into the holes they carved in the rock face. When you think about it, a chicken taquito with a good hot sauce is really a lot like a stick of dynamite. The first references [to the taco] in any sort of archive or dictionary come from the end of the 19th century.
L.A. Taco recently discovered the first recipes that were cooked here in Los Angeles, and what they found sounds pretty tasty.
One recipe was printed in a local children's charity cookbook in 1922, and another in The California Mexican-Spanish Cookbook by native Angeleño Bertha Haffner-Ginger in 1914. Says L.A. Taco:
According to the latter, a taco is made by "putting chopped cooked beef and chile sauce in a tortilla made of meal and flour; folded; edges sealed together with egg; deep fried in fat; and chile sauce served over it."
Sounds a little different than the fresh hand made masa tortillas topped with seasoned meats we've grown to love. But delicious nonetheless.