When tacos first crossed the US border they were already undergoing a transformation from their origins. Taco caterers are revisiting the original version of tacos.
Legend has it that silver miners in Mexico, circa 1700s, created the first taco. But that’s because the word “taco” was used to refer to little packets of dynamite used to break up rocks to find veins of silver ore. The folding of paper around the explosives was similar to the foods those miners may have carried with them to fuel what was undoubtedly hard work.
Flash forward to the 21st century, when taco caterers bring us every variety of taco that draws inspiration from Europe, the Far East, North America and Africa. Those wonderful pockets made of corn or flour tortillas carry an explosion of taste that have cross-cultural appeal.
As best they can be surmised, of the Zacatecas and Durango states of Mexico (these are the silver mining areas). Characteristics of the tacos found here include the following:
• Soft tacos always made of maize (corn), always served warm and moist.
• Lettuce and tomato are served as side dishes, not as a taco ingredient.
• A broad variety of meats are used (but not hamburger), perhaps in a tangy marinade. They can include roast pork, blood sausage, chicken liver and even offal (pig intestinal parts) and pork brains.
• Salsas of a broad variety and in varying degrees of spice heat, or no heat at all (it’s up to the individual diner to determine how much of and what kind of chilis to add).
• Diced onions and cilantro as toppings, with squeezed limes drizzled on top of everything.
Just as important as the ingredients is in how tacos are served. Because it involves service-for-one, made-to-order dishes from the chef working at an open kitchen. The taco shell should be warm, hot off the grill, with the ingredients placed according to the diner’s preference.
Taco catering has redefined social scenes in many ways in recent years. What might be most visible are the food trucks clustered around nightlife up and down the West Coast and elsewhere. The fast service with a broad variety of ingredients hits the spot in late night districts.
But tacos are proving to be the preferred food of all kinds of events – be they business gatherings, family parties, reunions and weddings. Given how taco catering companies can set up self-contained mobile kitchens just about anywhere, the party-planning options expand beyond traditional event venues.
So regardless if you plan a very traditional Mexican taco menu, or opt for fillings from somewhere else, the outcome can be very similar: a festive event that is relatively easy to execute.