Taco USA by Gustavo Arellano
How Mexican Food Conquered America

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Nationally syndicated columnist and bestselling author of ¡Ask a Mexican! Gustavo Arellano presents an entertaining, tasty trip through the history and culture of Mexican food in this country, uncovering great stories and charting the cuisine’s tremendous popularity in el Norte. In the tradition of Bill Buford’s Heat and Calvin Trillin’s The Tummy Trilogy, Arellano’s fascinating narrative combines history, cultural criticism, personal anecdotes, and Jesus on a tortilla.

When salsa overtook ketchup as this country’s favorite condiment in the 1990s, America’s century-long love affair with Mexican food reached yet another milestone. In seemingly every decade since the 1880s, America has tried new food trends from south of the border—chili, tamales, tacos, enchiladas, tequila, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, and so many more—loved them, and demanded the next great thing. As a result, Mexican food dominates American palates to the tune of billions of dollars in sales per year, from canned refried beans to frozen margaritas and ballpark nachos. It’s a little-known history, one that’s crept up on this country like your Mexican neighbors—and left us better for it.

Now, Taco USA addresses the all-important questions: What exactly constitutes “Mexican” food in the United States? How did it get here? What’s “authentic” and what’s “Taco Bell,” and does it matter? What’s so cosmic about a burrito? And why do Americans love Mexican food so darn much?

Tacos, alas, sold separately.

About Gustavo Arellano

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Gustavo Arellano’s ¡Ask a Mexican! column has a circulation of more than two million in thirty-eight markets (and counting). He has received the President’s Award from the Los Angeles Press Club, an Impact Award from the National Hispanic Media Coalition, and a 2008 Latino Spirit Award from the California State legislature. Arellano has appeared on the Today show, Nightline, NPR’s Talk of the Nation, and The Colbert Report. For more information, visit AskAMexican.net.
Published April 10, 2012 by Scribner. 322 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, Cooking, Science & Math, History. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Part history, part social commentary, Arellano’s (Orange County: A Personal History, 2008, etc.) comprehensive narrative will certainly whet the appetite of readers, as he chronicles how Mexican food products moved across the border and into American homes, restaurants and grocery stores.

Feb 05 2012 | Read Full Review of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Co...

The New York Times

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They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us.

Sep 02 2016 | Read Full Review of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Co...


Gustavo Arellano can tell you in his social commentary on the evolution of Mexican food's omnipresence in America, captured in his newest book "Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America."

Apr 10 2012 | Read Full Review of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Co...


And, in that introduction, Arellano hints at the widespread bigotry that has deprived Mexican-American cooks of the rewards of their inventions even as Mexican food has gained popularity: “caricatures of hot tamales, Montezuma’s revenge, questionable ingredients, Frito Banditos, talking Chihuahua...

Mar 31 2012 | Read Full Review of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Co...

City Book Review

Eventually there were two paths taken by most foods: One path led to the food becoming “corrupted” by corporations and the other led to delicious food being created by the people who loved the food.

Sep 04 2012 | Read Full Review of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Co...


An American Indian friend, after reading the syndicated “Ask A Mexican!” column for the first time, remarked: “That Mexican must have a tongue like a buffalo, to keep it pressed so firmly against his cheek.” Humor — from sly to outrageous to ribald — is the salsa that Gustavo Arellano slathers ac...

May 20 2012 | Read Full Review of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Co...

Publishers Weekly

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It paved the way for Glen Bell, founder of Taco Bell, who began his empire in San Bernadino, Calif., in 1951, where he also sold hamburgers and hot dogs in case the taco craze didn’t catch on.

Mar 05 2012 | Read Full Review of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Co...

Portland Book Review

It is a fun look at what happened to even something as simple as a taco when it became one of the basic American foods, where well-meaning people attempt to maintain their cultural fantasies while stamping out the original culture, and then how that culture gets its vengeance.

Sep 04 2012 | Read Full Review of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Co...


There was plenty of food to go around, and I had a chance to sample all sorts of wonderful things: super-delicate blue corn piki bread made at Tesuque Pueblo, a “grandmother’s lunch” cooked by a team of Native American women who know what they’re doing with red chile, green chile cheeseburgers (w...

Sep 19 2014 | Read Full Review of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Co...

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