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The great taco debate. April 29, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Continuing our run-up to Cinco de Mayo here at Poor Richard’s Almanac, let’s talk about taco shells. You wouldn’t think that taco shells could be a cause for controversy, but taco lovers tend to find themselves on one side of two great divides: Hard or soft? White or yellow? Which sides are you on?

For me, both issues are clear-cut. If I want a soft shell, I’ll eat a burrito or a quesadilla. If I’m eating refried beans with all the fixings (more on this tomorrow), I want crispy-crackly taco shells. And I want them made out of white corn. (Mind you, I don’t eat a taco the way most people do, with all the stuff shoved inside the clamshell-like taco shell, which will inevitably break up and/or explode when someone bites it, spewing food everywhere. Eeeeeewwwww!!!! Instead, I crack my hot taco shells in half and use them as scoops, or layer ingredients on top. Works like a charm as long as you keep that half-taco over your plate!)

White corn wins for me every time over the heavy, bitter yellow-corn alternative. The delicate, luscious flavor of white-corn taco shells and tortilla chips enhances everything they’re eaten with rather than overpowering it, and there’s no bitter, oily aftertaste.

Of course, I come from the South, where yellow corn has traditionally been regarded as a field crop (i.e. winter food for horses and cows), while the milder white corn was the food of the people. In the North, however, yellow corn is king, its superior nutritional content often cited.

I’ll never forget my shock when I first moved to scenic PA and was offered “cornbread,” a yellow, soggy, heavy, bitter conglomeration that had been sweetened (!!!) to offset the bitterness. Where was the light, luscious, crusty cornbread that I loved, a savory, not a sweet, split and topped with melting butter? Who would call this yellow stuff cornbread, much less pass additional sweeteners like syrup and molasses to drown it in more sogginess and sugar?! Yikes. Ditto for yellow corn-on-the-cob versus the likes of ‘Silver Queen’ and its more modern descendants.

I hate the supersweet corn/candy corn era accordingly. I don’t want my corn to taste like candy, I want it to taste like corn. Like good, luscious, aromatic corn, a vegetable, a savory dish. Not bitter. Not sweet. Just corn.

I was beginning to despair that I’d lost the opportunity forever when it came to taco shells. The trend in light, airy, delicious white-corn tortilla chips seemed to be on the rise, with Tostitos introducing its cantina-style super-light white corn chips. But the Old El Paso white corn taco shells, the only ones I’d ever been able to find, suddenly vanished from local market shelves. Now, there were hard yellow taco shells and soft white corn and white flour taco shells, as well as soft yellow taco shells. I scoured the shelves desperately, month after month. Where had my crisp white taco shells gone?!

Finally, last week I found some at a nearby Giant. I was tempted to buy their entire stock, in case they, too, were planning to discontinue them, but controlled myself and only bought two packages, more than enough to get me and our friend Ben through this Cinco de Mayo. But the second they’re gone, believe me, I’m rushing back. Please, Old El Paso, please keep them coming! As the license plates used to say, you have a friend in Pennsylvania.

‘Til next time,




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