Cinco de Mayo Special: How the Taco Conquered America
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Gustavo Arellano, author of Taco USA sits in as Evan's co-host as the two trace the history of the taco in Southern California and across America. Before there were tacos, there were taquitos and KCRW’s Saul Gonzalez visits the birthplace of the taquito in Los Angeles - Cielito Lindo - and speaks to owner Diana Guerrero Robertson whose family has owned the stand since 1934. Taco tycoon Larry Cano reminisces about how he started El Torito and created the blended margarita that we know today. John Gorman, the original Chief Operating Officer of Taco Bell recalls the challenge of marketing tacos to the American public in the 1960’s and Fernando and Bricia Lopez remember how difficult it was to find Mexican ingredients when they opened their Oaxacan restaurant Guelaguetza in 1993. Plus, a gringo in the hot sauce business? Dexter Holland of The Offspring discusses his quest for delicious Mexican hot sauce and Jonathan Gold describes how the Mexican culinary landscape has changed since he began reviewing restaurants in 1984.
Banner image: Taco Bell founder Glen Bell and his wife, Martha, making tacos. Photo courtesy of Taco Bell
Market Report ()
Roxana Jullapat is the co-owner and pastry chef at Cooks County. Jullapat is using first of the season cherries from Murray Family Farms to make a Chocolate Cherry Tart. The recipe has a chocolate shortbread crust filled with cherry compote and a soufflé-like chocolate filling. You'll find cherries showing up in both savory and sweet dishes at Cooks County this season.
Music: "Sabor a Mi" by Trio Los Panchos
Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America ()
Gustavo Arellano is the editor of the OC Weekly, author of the popular Ask A Mexican column and, most recently, the author of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. He sits in as Evan’s co-host as the two trace the history of Mexican food in Southern California and across America.
Cielito Lindo and the Birth of the Taco ()
KCRW's Saul Gonzalez visits with Diana Guerrero Robertson, owner of Cielito Lindo on Olvera Street. Her family has owned the taquito stand since 1934 and has been serving up their famous taquitos with tomatillo-avocado salsa ever since.
In his book Taco USA, Gustavo Arellano describes Cielito Lindo as the precursor to tacos and the original street food in Los Angeles.
Music: "Cielito Lindo" by The Caballeros
Taco Tycoon Larry Cano ()
Larry Cano is the founder of El Torito. In 1954 he took over Bali Hai, a tiki bar in Encino, and turned it into a Mexican restaurant. There, Cano says, he invented what we know now as the blended margarita. He also lays claim to the expression "Taco Tuesday," and was one of the first restaurants to host happy hour, Mexican brunch, table-side guacamole and the sizzling fajita plate.
Cano recalls catching Glen Bell spying on his operation before Bell opened Taco Bell.
Music: "Tequila" by The Champs
Taking the Taco to the Masses: Taco Bell ()
John Gorman was the first Chief Operating Officer of Taco Bell. He remembers how difficult it was to sell tacos in Southern California in the 1960's. Customers were not familiar with the product and he had to hire staff to teach customers how to eat the tacos. At first, most customers would try to eat them like sandwiches, turned on their side. He says Glenn Bell, founder of Taco Bell, was a genius.
Before he opened Taco Bell, Glen Bell operated a burger stand across the street from Mitla Cafe on Route 66 in San Bernadino. Lucy Reyes has been a waitress at Mitla Cafe for 70 years and still remembers Glen Bell coming into drink coffee with the owners of the cafe in the early 50's. According to Gustavo Arellano, Bell learned to make Taco Bell's signature hard shell tacos in the Mitla Cafe kitchen.
Glen Bell at the take-out window
Check out the menu -- and those prices!
Music: "Ja Da" by Roy Eldridge, "La Bamba" by Paco de Lucia and "Baby I Need Your Loving" by The Four Tops
The Quest for Authenticity ()
Fernando López is the founder and owner of Guelaguetza, one of the most revered Oaxacan restaurants in Southern California. He recalls how when he first came to Los Angeles in the early 1990's he would literally die for authentic Oaxacan food. His wife would send tlayudas from Oaxaca and he began a business selling the food of Oaxaca door to door. There was such a demand for the product that he eventually opened a restaurant in 1993. His daughter, Bricia López, translates.
Gringo Bandito ()
Music: "Keep Em Separated" by Offspring
Mexican Food in LA, 1984 to Present Day ()
Jonathan Gold remembers the culinary landscape of Mexican food in Los Angeles when he first began reviewing restaurants in 1984. He describes it as mostly "#2 combo plates," but in the late 1980's he began to see regional specialties appear on menus. He ends his review with John Sedlar's Rivera, calling it "possibly the most ambitious and maybe well realized Mexican restaurant that there's ever been in the United States."
The restaurants Jonathan mentions are Marix, Antonio’s, Border Grill, Rebecca's (now closed) and Rivera. You can find all of Jonathan's restaurant suggestions on the Good Food restaurant map.
Music outro: "Aqui Su Taquero" by La Sonora Dinimita
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