No one knows who exactly created the first taco. A history professor who has traveled the world eating tacos (what a job!) told Smithsonian Magazine he thinks they originated in 18th century Mexico.
The very first time anyone referenced tacos as we know them wasn’t until the 19th century — as tacos de minero, miner’s tacos. That was less than 220 years ago.
In the U.S., tacos were first mentioned in a 1905 newspaper article. At the time, Mexican immigrants were starting to move to the U.S. for mining and railroad jobs, and they brought their food tastes with them.
At first, other Americans thought of tacos as cheap and lower class. But as immigrants’ children grew up and moved into the middle class, Mexican food — including the taco — became more mainstream.
The creation of the hard taco shell helped make the popularity of fast-food tacos possible. Instead of a fresh tortilla, which loses its deliciousness more quickly, a hard taco shell can keep for weeks. Almost all fast food tacos have hard shells for that reason.
Almost anything in a shell can technically be a taco. According to Bustle, people have made spaghetti tacos, bacon and waffle tacos, and sushi tacos.
Better tacos, Professor Jeffrey Pilcher told Smithsonian, can be found all over the United States now. “There’s a whole world of fancy Mexican food,” he said, “but every place there are Mexican migrants you’re going to find some good tacos.”
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