Taco Bell, Who Are You?
If you’ve come across previous G&T blog posts, you’re probably familiar of my acrimony towards Taco Bell. This rage is endless and everlasting, and keeps me alive.
“Think Outside the Bun”. Really? It sounds like something The Onion’s Jean Teasdale came up with. The kind of lady that knits Christmas ornaments and records soap operas with VHS tapes. A person that intentionally writes in Denelian.
Why do I despise Taco Bell so much? Hum.
1. I worked at a Taco Bell at the age of sixteen, and I saw dry, non-constituted bean powder for the first time.
2. Lettuce, tomatoes and a dollop of sour cream is not the definition of “Supreme” in my book.
3. Mild Sauce, Hot Sauce, and Fire Sauce are actually the same thing.
4. The male actors in their commercials, which represent their target demographic of 18-25, all wear knit stocking caps. Probably catering to potheads with munchies. Not that there’s anything wrong with that as a marketing standpoint, it works. But potheads wore stocking caps in that Dazed and Confused movie, which came out in 93, and was set in the 70’s. Potheads now wear Fidel Castro hats.
5. When I was growing up, there was a jukebox in the Taco Bell on Center Street in Deer Park, TX. I told some friends I’d play a few songs on it, and by some technical glitch, the jukebox played “I Touch Myself” by The Divinyls instead of “Mic Checka” by Das Efx, effectively canceling out my street cred and henceforth the rest of my teenage life until I bought a pistol and sold drugs.
This is the part where I should probably delve into the history of Taco Bell, explaining how an ex-Marine came up with this brilliant concept to make Mexican food more approachable to other white folks that were afraid of visiting Mexican taquerias. But you already know the story. We know what Taco Bell is. We understand that it is far from Mexican cuisine. And some will perpetually choose Taco Bell over a nearby taqueria, because they mistakenly believe that a corporate conglomerate is more concerned with food safety than a family-run truck, or maybe because they don’t want to get out of their car to order food for fear of getting robbed by a Mexican.
So it did come as great surprise to me that Taco Bell is now offering “Cantina Tacos”- their version of the Real Deal Holyfield. Taco truck tacos- complete with corn tortillas, chopped cilantro and onion, with a slice of lime. A real lime that was grown on a tree.
When I heard the news, it was as if I had initiated a chess match with Deep Blue, and after three moves, it was like, “You know, let’s just watch Power Rangers instead”.
You don’t expect Taco Bell to make a move like this. They are expected to come up with idiotic things, such as getting 50 Cent to sue them, or a “Drive-Thru Diet” campaign. I mean, seriously. Taco Bell is a company that gets Shaquille O’Neal to endorse their food. Their most recent ad campaign involves starting a petition to have the Federal Reserve print more $2 bills. Ad execs get paid for this.
As a self-proclaimed tacologist, it was my solemn duty to give these tacos the Pepsi Challenge. I stopped at the recently remodeled Taco Bell on Shepherd and Vermont and ordered all three Cantina tacos. My voice dripped with sarcasm as I ordered word-for-word:
“I’ll have the Premium Fire-Grilled Chicken, Premium Cut Carne Asada Steak and the Carnitas Shredded Pork Cantina Tacos with Fire Sauce and a super turbo sized Mountain Dew, bro”.
The nice young lady behind the counter obliged, and I brought the stuff home so nobody would see me there. I looked in the bag and saw three tacos wrapped in real aluminum foil. I grinned and shook my finger at the tacos.
“I see what you did there”.
Again, it is odd that Taco Bell made this decision, but at the same time, it is believable. Taco truck tacos are inexpensive, and so are their ingredients for the most part. Cilantro and onions are some of the cheapest produce you can find, and corn tortillas are less expensive than their flour counterparts. With the exception of avocado slices (which you generally see out West or near coastal towns), you can put a decent taco together for nickels with the bulk buying power that Yum! Brands has. The aluminum foil is probably the most expensive element. They have everything to gain from this decision, and nothing to lose.
I tried the chicken taco first, even though chicken tacos are a little odd for me to order. Reason is, if I want chicken tacos I’ll just buy a whole chicken from Pollos Asados el Regio and eat it with tortillas. I couldn’t tell if this was white or dark meat- it was kind of in between, like the inside of a McNugget. It had a nice color to it, with those charred stripes that make it look like it was once cooked on a grill or painted by some kind of grill-striping machine. Some chunky salsa verde would have gone nicely with it, but I doubt if Taco Bell knows what tomatillos are.
The beef taco wasn’t bad either. They were a bit stingy on the beef, and again, eating any kind of taco with Taco Bell’s Fire, Hot or Mild sauce is about as pointless as enrolling Justin Bieber in the Boy Scouts.
I bit into the smokey, juicy and tender pulled pork taco as Johnny Cash played “When the Man Comes Around” in the background, hanging my head in shame as I chewed and swallowed my onions, cilantro and pride. I genuinely enjoyed this taco, as the images of the hundreds of hard working taqueros, shaking their heads in disapproval, flashed through my mind in order of their appearance in my traitorous life. I was disturbed by this, but then my mind halted with an epiphany.
Maybe I’ve won.