Because they can be held in one hand, it may seem that tacos are insubstantial. Far from it, the taco can be complete nutrition that makes a meal smart.
A disservice that fast-food chains may have given the American diet is the idea that a taco is a little naughty, a little too easy and not very sophisticated because you can drive up to a window to get one. But the boom in gourmet restaurants and mobile taco catering improvising on the taco theme should change that perception. In the meantime, many may ask: Is a taco a side dish or appetizer, or can it be the whole meal?
The answer should be yes, a taco can stand on its own as a meal. It has grains (in the tortilla), vegetables and proteins, although the creativity of the taco caterers and chefs can alter the proportions thereof. Various food writers, magazines and party planners provide some very specific reasons why tacos can deliver all that we expect in a healthy, satisfying meal:
Simplicity matters – Food writer Michael Pollan of The New York Times and author of “In Defense of Food, an Eater’s Manifesto” (Penguin Press, 2008) stresses a need to depart from eating manufactured foods that make health claims and to instead eat real things with real whole (unprocessed) ingredients – which can include most if not all the stuffings in a quality taco. And while Pollan also encourages people to “eat like an omnivore” – meaning, seek a diversity of ingredients from the vast spectrum of foods available to American consumers – one might neatly accomplish that given the broad variety of ingredients now found in gourmet tacos: squid, organic beef, tofu, cucumbers, tomatoes, quinoa, fennel, catfish, kale, shallots, garlic, and so on. By and large, the conscious entertainer can be rest assured tacos provide a broad range to diners in a single entree.
Consider the mechanics of eating the meal – The people who do mobile taco catering often have to counsel party planners on why a taco is perhaps their best choice for grownup parties. Why? Grownups wear nice clothes. Grownups try to have smart, even strategic conversations at events (corporate as well as more casual friends-and-family events). It’s a treat when they can ditch the fork and knife to eat a hand-held taco. Better, if they can move around a party and chat with a dozen people during dinner instead of the three or four people opposite them at a sit-down dinner. You can’t do that with a chicken breast, baked potato and broccoli florets.
Make it healthy – Children too need to eat healthy, so the parent who organizes a birthday party for kids might face scrutiny from the other moms and dads if an attempt toward a healthy meal isn’t made. Real Simple magazine once ran a feature on satisfying kids with healthy tacos. For starters, it’s a covert way of inserting vegetables into the meal. And they might take a cotton to healthy new tastes such as cilantro, lime, salsa and black beans. Taco caterers that specialize in family parties, take note!
And as far as catering goes, an entire sub-industry of catering revolving around tacos has sprung up in all cities. This phenomenon speaks to the power of the taco.
Those mass-produced tacos aren’t going away anytime soon. But with so much more available in such complete-nutrition, event-friendly forms, you can motor past the drive-through for something a bit more complete.