Quick Book Review: Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America by Gustavo Arellano

Last weekend my middle-school aged daughter had an indoor soccer tournament at a school in a small rural town about 45 minutes away. These tournaments always have some kind of concession stand with the usual soft drinks, candies, fruit, etc. But at this one I saw something that intrigued me, it was billed as a “Walking Taco” (Google it, you’ll see) and was $3. What the hell is that? I love Mexican and Tex-Mex food, but had no idea what this was.

A short while later a found out. One of the kids on the team bought one. It’s apparently a small bag of Doritos that is opened and into which lettuce, chili, and cheese are poured. It looked (a lot) less than appetizing. On seeing this my first thought was that Gustavo Arellano would despise this.

Taco USA is a look at how Mexican food became so popular in the U.S. Tamale men, burritos, Chipotle, El Torito, Chi-Chi’s, Taco Bell, Del Taco, it’s all in here, along with some very interesting backstories. Mr. Arellano’s book Taco USA is generally a good read. The first third was a page-turner and informative, the middle-third was a bit slow, and the final third was again interesting. Gustavo Arellano doesn’t have much use for inauthentic Mexican food, or something else being passed off as Mexican food. There’s even a chapter on tequila and margaritas. Though I can imagine what the author thinks of these. ;-)


All joking aside, this is a fun read, with a great deal of information packed into it. If you like food, particularly Mexican food, and a little bit of history, grab this one.

Check out Mr. Arellano’s site, and he’s also on Twitter.

  • jimhughes

    That’s not a Taco. Down in the Southwest/Texas and New Mexico it’s a Frito Pie.
    I remember the Snack Shack opposite my Oklahoma High School, serving those in the early 60’s. To be more exact , your description would indicate it’s a Dorito Pie. It did have fresh home made Chili in it didn’t it? Jim

    • http://pretenseofknowledge.com/ speedmaster

      Thanks, Jim. And that chili looked pretty suspect. ;-)

      • jimhughes

        My pleasure. It’s a regular Fast food here in the outback. Jim