Happy National Taco Day!

Happy National Taco Day!

I didn’t even know this holiday existed in the United States until today when I was doing my daily morning food reading, but I’m glad I came across it because who doesn’t need another excuse to talk about tacos? Although practically every day is taco day in my house and we don’t need a holiday just to eat them, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some history about one of Mexico’s most common culinary delights.

My good friend Claudia, who is from Puebla, Mexico, and is also a linguist, shared with me a little lesson about the origin of the word “taco.”

There are various accepted origins; literally, it means a plug for an empty gap. Which makes a lot of sense when you look at it from the perspective of food – you eat a taco to fill the emptiness in your belly that is hunger.

A gringa from El Fogoncito in Mexico City

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AGUA FRESCA: AGUA DE TUNA ROJA

I still remember the first time I saw tunas growing wild – José and I were visiting Mexico City one warm week at the end of the summer several years ago. One afternoon we were bored, so my suegra suggested that José take me on an official tour of Ciudad Universitaria. Also referred to as CU, it is home to the main campus of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (la UNAM or in English, the National Autonomous University of Mexico), the largest university in Latin America and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2007.

This year on September 22, UNAM celebrated 100 years since its founding as the National University of Mexico as it was conceptualized by Secretary and Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts, Justo Sierra, and inaugurated in 1910 by President Porfirio Díaz. The university is also the successor to the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico, founded by Spanish Royal Decree in 1551 – technically making UNAM one of the oldest universities in the Americas.

On the campus grounds, besides the historic buildings designed by some of Mexico’s most well-known architects, murals and sculptures by famous Mexican artists, an Olympic stadium that has hosted a Summer Olympic Games (1968) and a World Cup (1986), and an impressive number of students, faculty and staff, there exists a serene, green space that is as close to the original land’s flora and fauna as it might have grown freely during the height of the Aztec empire…. 

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SOPA DE FIDEO

Sopa de fideo recipe from theothersideofthetortilla.com

I’m sharing my sopa de fideo recipe today because this tomato-broth and noodle soup is a comfort food for me–full of one specific fond memory.

Let me explain. Last summer, after more than a decade of dreaming about visiting Teotihuacan, I finally made the 40-kilometer trip northeast of Mexico City with my suegro and my cuñada. I had yearned to visit this archaeological site since I first learned about it in history books as a kid. The Aztec pyramids fascinated me and I never dreamed I’d be able to travel there, let alone make it all the way to the top of the famed Pirámide del Sol.

After what seemed like a long car ride on the highway from Mexico City (in reality, it was only about 25 miles), we finally arrived at Teotihuacan. I had worn loose clothes to be comfortable while climbing, and as it was cloudy, I decided against wearing a hat. I had also decided that I couldn’t climb to the top of the Pirámide del Sol without toting two cameras so I could have the advantage of shooting photos with two different lenses without risking getting dirt in my camera’s sensor. Sort of crazy on all accounts, right?… 

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