(Roughly) Daily

“People who love to eat are always the best people”*…

You might as well know, right at the outset, that Alice Waters does not approve of walking tacos.

The iconic chef’s first encounter with the dish-in-a-bag came during a trip to a school after the principal asked for her assistance with the food program. Waters describes the scene in her 2008 book Edible Schoolyard:

Parked in the middle of the asphalt, this building sold soda pop to the children during their recess and lunch hour, and it also sold something called a “walking taco,” which is as perfect a symbol of a broken culture as I can imagine. Opening a plastic bag of mass-produced corn chips, the food workers would simply pour in a kind of beef-and-tomato slurry from a can. The kids would then walk away, with no connection to one another.

If there’s such a thing as the opposite of Proust’s madeleine, this is it: a childhood experience, first encountered in adulthood, and repulsing in some formative way. The moment was the seed of Waters’ work with kids—planting vegetable gardens on school grounds; understanding where their food comes from; learning to eat fresh, healthful things. All good and noble and important work!

But I can’t help but wince at her broader critique: “As perfect a symbol of a broken culture as I can imagine.” Because while a walking taco may not be, like, good for you in a nutritionist-approved way, if you look at the deeper cultural perspective, it turns out there’s much to savor—it’s less about how things fall apart than how they come together…

The cultural history of a curious comestible: “Oaxacans, Mormons, and A Bag of Chips: A Brief History of the Walking Taco.”

* Julia Child

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As we mix and match, we might recall that today is Microwave Oven Day, a celebration of Raytheon engineer Percy Spencer’s 1946 invention of the now ubiquitous kitchen appliance.

In 1946, Raytheon unveiled its new Radarange microwave oven, a new use for the company’s magnetron tubes. The prototype shown here was called the Raydarange. [source: Bettmann/Getty Images]

Written by LW

December 6, 2020 at 1:01 am

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