Note: We at San Diego Magazine have partnered with Puesto to find the best reader-submitted taco recipe. So this is an ad of sorts. It’s also a love story. A taco love story. Winning recipe gets $1,000, their taco featured on Puesto’s menu for a month, plus tickets to SD Mag’s big party. For some people, that’s a pretty decent sum of money and recognition and stuff. For others, they’d rather keep their taco secrets in a locked box accessible only with a retina scan. I don’t judge, either way. Please enjoy my ode to the taco on this momentous occasion.
Tacos are messy. Some of us prefer that sort of touchy connection. We are a proud, embarrassing people. We tend to go in for the hug. We want to get food on our hands because it feels crispy and squishy and just plain cool. Kids are often terrible humans, but they’re right about this. Our ancient ancestors knew this was the best way, too. They painted this hand-eating urge into the caves of our DNA.
Many food experts say we’re too far removed from how food is made. Far as most of us know, food is grown and raised on Yelp. So a hand-held taco gets us closer to the truth.
There are fewer and fewer things we can hold with our hands in this life. No matter how much you want to, you cannot hold that inspirational quote from Facebook in your hands, press it to your heart, and sigh. You can’t wring that Pinterest dream board between your fingers until it releases all its decor secrets. Digital currency is destroying our ability to roll around on a hotel bed in our first million, and iHugs will be a thing. A taco in the hand is worth two on the Instagram.
Sous vide chicken on a plate is refined. But fried chicken in your hand is awesome. If they ever ask on a job interview if you’re qualified or awesome, answer awesome. You won’t get the job, but you’ll be awesome—just like tacos.
There are so many food rules. We’re told to place the napkin over our laps, use proper utensils, take small bites, chew thoroughly, pay for the meal, etc. Don’t we have enough rules, already? That’s why your loud neighbor’s still alive and not in a bag in your trunk. Tacos help us lift all but four fingers to the rules.
Don’t get me wrong. Forks are fine. Someone sells forks and probably sends their kids through college on fork money. But you can’t deny that we were born with five perfectly good utensils attached to the end of our palms. Taco eaters put god’s work to use.
Forks were invented by people who iron their t-shirts. People who iron their t-shirts think Bon Jovi invented punk rock (punk rock was invented by Hot Topic).
Tacos are also an explosive food. If Michael Bay's career has taught us anything, it's that explosions equal success. One or two bites and a taco’s insides spill out like every single person in a Tarantino film. We don’t mind that we have to pick up the pieces. After all, we’re used to doing that with all the people we’ve dated.
Tacos are democratic. They don’t care if you own bitcoins, or just bits of coins. You drove here in a Tesla. I drove here behind a Tesla. We are all the same in the eyes of the taco.
Tacos get their own day. Tapenade Tuesdays would be poorly attended. I’m not going to say tacos are life, because that would be a little melodramatic. Tacos are better than life.
The first taco many of us ate was at Taco Bell. I have nothing against Mr. Bell. Every good cuisine needs a gateway drug. But Taco Bell is Mexican food in the same way that a couch is a motorcycle. It’s not. You can jump on a couch and make engine noises with your mouth, but it’s not going to get you to Bakersfield.
But Taco Bell opened many of us to the idea of tacos, and there are better tacos. You should search them out for your happiness.
(Here comes the kinda-sorta-ad part.)
You should enter our contest with Puesto. Submit your best recipe for the glorious taco. If you win, you’ll get stuff. Lots and lots of stuff.