Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

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My Something Old today is the venerable taco.

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Of course, how old you think the taco is depends on what you call a taco. The taco is ancient, if by "taco" you mean a corn tortilla wrapped around some protein:

Tacos are thought to come from Mexico, long before the Spanish arrived. Ancient Mexicans used freshly made, soft, flat corn tortillas and gave them with fillings like fish and cooked organs. It was a staple meal that provided vital nutrients and energy to those who consumed it.

https://www.twistedtaco.com/the-history-of-the-taco

But they didn't call them "tacos." The etymology of "taco" seems a little odd. Here's what actual taco historian Jeffrey Pilcher has to say about it:

The origins of the taco are really unknown. My theory is that it dates from the 18th century and the silver mines in Mexico, because in those mines the word “taco” referred to the little charges they would use to excavate the ore. These were pieces of paper that they would wrap around gunpowder and insert into the holes they carved in the rock face. When you think about it, a chicken taquito with a good hot sauce is really a lot like a stick of dynamite. The first references [to the taco] in any sort of archive or dictionary come from the end of the 19th century. And one of the first types of tacos described is called tacos de minero—miner’s tacos.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/where-did-the-taco-come-from...

So, if I've got this straight, the miners used a wad of paper around gunpowder to excavate the ore and called it a "taco;" the miners also ate tortillas wrapped around protein. Then one day somebody noticed the similarity between the two (something wrapped around something else?) and started calling the filled tortilla "tacos de minero."

Well, I've seen odder derivations.

The Taco was first introduced to the United States in 1905. Mexican migrants were coming in to work on railroads and other jobs and started to bring their delicious food with them.

Tacos were essentially a street food at this time since they were highly portable and cheap. In fact, Americans first became exposed to tacos through Mexican food carts in Los Angeles that were run by women called “chili queens”.

https://www.twistedtaco.com/the-history-of-the-taco

I like the idea of being a "chili queen."

It has been a working-class food for a long time. In fact, according to Pilcher, the fact that the tortillas were made out of corn signified that they were indigenous, not European, and therefore lower:

The Spanish conquistadors looked down on Native foods and tried to bring European foods with them. One of the reasons for this was religion. Corn was associated with Native deities, and wheat was the grain used for the holy Eucharist. These foods also had social connotations. In the 19th century, Native food was considered lower class and European food was considered elite, but here’s the catch: there was recognition that these Native foods were Mexican. So the patriots, the Mexican nationals, wanted to claim that they were really Mexican. So mole poblano, which is a turkey in this chili pepper sauce—very spicy—was considered somewhere in between [upper and lower class]. It was not associated with the Natives who were still alive; it was associated with the glories of the Aztecs. People who were of European ancestry claimed, “We are the descendants not of these lower-class Natives all around us, but of the Aztec emperors.” It gave them a political legitimacy.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/where-did-the-taco-come-from...

So the Spanish Mexicans looked down on the indigenous and mestizo Mexicans because everything European is better, but then they wanted liberation from Spain and a national identity. So they had to borrow an indigenous identity, but it couldn't be the living tradition all around them (mostly, I think, Mayan, if I'm not mistaken) because those people were lower class. So, in a gesture of supreme historical irony, the descendants of Spanish conquerors claimed affiliation with the regime their ancestors overthrew!

I can't imagine the torque it must have put on people's brains to cobble together an indigenous identity while maintaining their unshakeable distinction from all the extant indigenous people around them. I know that as a citizen of the United States, criticizing Mexico for something like this surely is like throwing rocks in a glass house. Tinkle, crash! But even so! "We are the descendants of the noble Aztec Empire?" Are you kidding me?

By 1920, tacos started to integrate more Anglo-American features. It wasn't until 1940 that the tortillas started being deep-fried, so I guess that's not particularly authentic. Too bad, cause I love the crunchy contrast to the soft filling. But I wouldn't kick a soft tortilla out of bed for eating crackers. (I think that metaphor got away from me somehow).

Something New
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This is not that new, but I somehow forgot to bring it up. Everybody who has ever been interested in comic books or superhero fiction should watch this:

It took me a long time to listen to Kate when she told me to watch it. I haven't been altogether happy with Disney and the Marvel Universe movies lately.

Over the years, watching the Infinity War series of movies was like watching propaganda and resistance battle it out in real time. Some of the producers, directors and writers used the Marvel universe to say things that the powerful really, really didn't want them to say. You could see that in Captain America: Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy 1, and even in The Avengers.

But all too often, the empire struck back with what my family calls a "warded" movie. A good example is Guardians of the Galaxy II, a truly toxic shutdown of the themes and implications of the first movie, or Spiderman: Homecoming, which not only wrecked the characters of both Peter Parker and Tony Stark but also did something truly unforgivable: creating a superhero hierarchy that segregated "superheroes who save the little old lady from getting beat up by neighborhood thugs" from "superheroes who work with spies, generals, and defense contractors to protect the world from aliens." (Guess which ones are elevated over the others). The most working-class of all superheroes, Peter Parker, became the occasion for creating the distinction between being a superhero for ordinary folk and the superhero of the 1%, something that had, as far as I know, never existed in comic books and their derivatives before. That's just wrong.

If Spiderman: Homecoming felt a bit like a hatchet job done on a fictional character, The Guardians of the Galaxy arc felt even more like that. It continued all the way to the end of the saga. Apparently, someone really didn't like how the first movie expressed the irredeemable loss of something unutterably precious, embodied in the mix tape made for the lead character by his hippie mother, who died of cancer in the 80s:

The mix shows how his mother felt in the seventies, when she fell in love with the main character's father and got pregnant. But remembering how people felt and thought before the eighties is a slap in the face of the current regime, especially if said people were hippies or free spirits. Suggesting that something was lost with the rise of neoconservatism comes close to being an unspeakable truth.

Even worse, the popularity of the movie led to an upsurge of people buying walkmen and cassette tapes, and we can't have that. Don't worry, though; the sequel took care of that by replacing Peter's mother's mix tape, made for her son when she was dying, with an ITunes subscription. I'm not even joking.

So I wasn't altogether thrilled to watch The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. I also knew that it had prominent black characters in it, and I didn't really trust Marvel or Disney with issues of race. I was afraid I was going to be treated to another Wakanda: an essentially racist premise with a few outright racist scenes (would a 21st-century technologically-advanced African nation choose their leader by stripping down to loincloths, grabbing spears, and physically fighting for the kingship? And why the hell is the bad guy a black man who grew up in Oakland and is upset about racism?)

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier isn't any of those things. In fact, arguably it does what I think most of us here on this site would like to do: address racism while simultaneously addressing the fact that the concentration of power in the hands of a few has well and truly fucked everyone who isn't powerful. It also manages to address racism while allowing Steve Rogers to be a good man. In short, like Luke Cage, it is nuanced, passionate, and pertinent to our times.

Something Borrowed
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It's pretty scary when you look at the top ten, twenty, or sixty best cover songs, and you recognize all the originals--and almost none of the cover artists. I'm gettin' old, baby!

It's really cool to see someone cover a band very different from themselves. A punk band called The Dickies covered The Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin:"

Here's the original:

Something Blue
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Isn't this beautiful? It's by Renoir.

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How are you all doing today?

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QMS's picture

Would blue corn tortillas be in the mix?

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Blue corn is common in Mexico, Peru and other parts of South America. Corn is one of the most widely used ingredients in Peruvian cuisine. During our visit to Peru we learned a lot about the ancient farming techniques of the Incas. They used careful breeding and seed selection to create varieties of both corn and potatoes that would grow in a variety of climates and terrains. There is evidence of corn growing in Peru as far back as 1200 BC.

Today Peruvian farmers grow over 55 varieties of corn, more than anywhere else on earth, in a wide range of climates. Mexico’s corn production is much the same, focusing on native varieties that thrive in a variety of natural conditions.

Blue corn contains high levels of anthocyanins, which is what give it the blue tones. This is the same antioxidant found in other blue/purple/red plants including berries.

https://www.compassandfork.com/recipe/make-fresh-blue-corn-tortillas-home/

Thanks for the thoughtful OT!

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@QMS

Abso-fraggin-lutely, every heirloom corn welcome!

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"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

Would you know, tacos is what I had for dinner last night and thoroughly enjoyed. Of course they were the crunchy kind but I created my own mix of mushrooms and chicken for the filling along with a side of black beans and guacamole. Perfect dinner!

Love the picture by Renoir. Always think I am going to get out paints and create some masterpiece but it does not seem to happen.

Hope you have a great day. Getting ready to go for a bike ride before the predicted strong winds start happening this afternoon.

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Life is what you make it, so make it something worthwhile.

This ain't no dress rehearsal!

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@jakkalbessie

Then again, I'm waiting for my brunch, so I'm pretty hungry!
Eating a pear and a tomato for appetizers. Smile

Have a great bike ride!

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6 users have voted.

"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

Granma's picture

Information you packed in here today. The taco history is great. The Mexican nationals gyrations made me laugh. And I love the Renoir.
The old lady's stick hat still nterests me. She looks awfully amused in that photo. I've decided she was wearing it for some sort of historical celebration or festival, that the hat was made for that purpose.

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Granma

Thanks for dropping by.

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6 users have voted.

"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

snoopydawg's picture

I cheered, but when they came for me…

How many times do people need to hear that before it sinks in? Censorship is never right.

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5 users have voted.

In a free country civil liberties are not only for certain groups.
So this is how liberty dies . . . with thunderous applause.
The donor class doesn’t want it, and Americans elect the bribed. So suck it up.

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@snoopydawg

This is why basic human rights should not be under the jurisdiction of the private sector. Unless, of course, you want the private sector to be told what to do.

You can't have it both ways. Either the internet is deemed a public utility, and access to it a basic human right--since it is basically the public square now--or it's a private commodity managed by companies, in which case those companies must be controlled by a government that prevents them from abridging people's basic human rights, one of which is the right to expression.

Or we could all be fascists.

I don't think there is a fourth option.

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9 users have voted.

"More for Gore or the son of a drug lord--None of the above, fuck it, cut the cord."
--Zack de la Rocha

"I tell you I'll have nothing to do with the place...The roof of that hall is made of bones."
-- Fiver

snoopydawg's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal

in which case those companies must be controlled by a government that prevents them from abridging people's basic human rights, one of which is the right to expression.

Democrats are telling them to censor more. Zuck and Jack have been hauled in front of them for a few years and the shitlibs are all in favor of censoring ‘fake news.' Fake news is whatever republicans are saying these days. It’s quite sad to see how they have changed in such a short time.

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6 users have voted.

In a free country civil liberties are not only for certain groups.
So this is how liberty dies . . . with thunderous applause.
The donor class doesn’t want it, and Americans elect the bribed. So suck it up.

dystopian's picture

Hi CtMS, Hope it is all good!

I just want to remind everyone, so they know...
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There are two ways to go in life...
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The 'One Way' sign at the top of the frame seems explanatory to me.

One thing I miss about L.A., is the hole-in-the-wall Mexican eateries. There are sooo many that are soooo good. Did I want a Jalisco, Michoacan, or Sonora taco? This was the problem.

Be well all,

official taco tester

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We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
both - Albert Einstein