The untold truth of tacos

Tacos are crispy, spicy, and delicious. They're easy to eat on the go, and cheap, too. But what secrets are hidden inside their delicious corn and flour shells? Tacos have a lot of fascinating stories to to tell.

The first tacos were wrapped around gunpowder

You may be surprised to learn that the first tacos weren't food at all. Mexican silver miners in the 18th century wrapped gunpowder in paper, which they would then push into the holes they carved in the rock face. They referred to these as tacos.

Jeffrey Pilcher, Ph.D., writer of the book Planet Taco, explained to Bespoke Post that the miners likely started calling their lunches tacos: "The miners started calling their lunches tacos as well, since tortillas wrapped around potatoes or other simple stuffings with hot sauce resembled the little sticks of dynamite."

Tacos al pastor originated in Lebanon

While tacos originated in Mexico, not all of them come from there. One of the most popular tacos, tacos al pastor, actually came from Lebanon. In the early to mid 1900s, Lebanese migrants started going to Mexico. They brought with them shwarma, or slow roasted lamb. Shwarma is typically served in pita bread in the Middle East, but being in Mexico, they began putting the lamb into tacos instead, which became known as Arab tacos.

The children of these Lebanese migrants switched it up by putting pork into their tacos instead, and adding a bit of pineapple to sweeten it up. That's when tacos al pastor became a popular Mexican dish.

30,000 people signed a petition to make a taco emoji

In late 2014, Taco Bell noticed that, while there were hamburger and hot dog emojis, a taco emoji was sadly missing from the standard emojis list. They started a petition asking Unicode to add a taco emoji to their next update. Over 30,000 people signed the petition, which read, in part, "America wants a taco emoji. America needs a taco emoji. Help us. Sign this petition. Let's make the taco emoji official."

Unicode approved the taco emoji seven months later, and in October of 2015, Apple added it to iOS 9.1, to the jubilation of taco fans everywhere.

Hamburgers were the inspiration for fast food tacos

Mexican tacos have been around for over a hundred years. But Americans didn't make it their own until around 1950, when Glen Bell got the idea for Taco Bell by watching McDonalds take off. He ran a hot dog and hamburger stand across from a Mexican restaurant, and by watching that restaurant, and looking at McDonalds as his inspiration, he quickly figured out how to make preformed taco shells and sell them to the mass market.

Tacos and hamburgers have other similarities as well — they're both made with ground beef, lettuce, cheese, and tomatoes. They can be held in your hand and eaten on the go, and they're easy to produce in high quantities. If you think about it, a taco is really just a hamburger put together in a hard shell.

Restaurants can be sued for having a "Taco Tuesday"

If you're like me, you've enjoyed more than a few Taco Tuesdays in your lifetime. What could be better than cheap tacos? But unbeknownst to many, the phrase Taco Tuesday is actually trademarked, and many restaurants have been served cease and desist letters for using it in their marketing.

Since 1989, Taco John's, a fast food chain based in Cheyenne, Wyoming, has held the trademark for "Taco Tuesday," and they've angered and perplexed many local taco chains who were unaware of the trademark by asking them to stop using it. In 2014, they went after The Old Fashioned in Madison Wisconsin, a restaurant that had been offering Taco Tuesday for nearly a decade. They held a contest to come up with a new name for their Tuesday night promotion — one of the entries was "Trademark Tyrant Taco Day."

They were introduced in the U.S. by "Chili Queens"

Americanized tacos may have been invented by a man, but authentic Mexican cuisine was first served in the U.S. by a group of female cooks known as the San Antonio Chili Queens. For over 100 years, the Chili Queens served chili from pots in plazas in San Antonio. They brought makeshift tables, pots, and containers. Cooking their chili over open fires, they served customers of all types — businessmen, soldiers, and families. They also served beans, tamales, and coffee.

They gave Americans the first taste of spicy Mexican food, and have been credited with inspiring tacos, Tex Mex and chili powder. Their delicious food spread to Chicago at the 1893 Chicago World Fair. By that time, their DIY setups had been banned in the Alamo Plaza. They were eventually banned from selling their wares in San Antonio altogether, and in 1937, they moved out of the streets and into restaurants.

A jail guard snuck a hacksaw to a prisoner by hiding it in a taco

In 2009, Alfred Casas, a jail guard at Bexar County Jail, met Tiffany Contreras, a prisoner's girlfriend, in a Texas parking lot. She gave him five tacos to deliver to her boyfriend. The two on top were filled with chorizo and eggs. The bottom three contained an added ingredient — hacksaw blades.

The blades were later discovered during a routine cell check, and Casas was fired and put on trial for making the delivery. He denied any knowledge that the tacos contained hacksaws. But Contreras testified  that she told him about the blades and that she had given him black market Xanax in exchange for his delivery.

Casas was convicted of smuggling in 2011, two months after another guard from the Bexar County Jail was convicted of smuggling heroin to an inmate inside of a barbacoa taco.

A man used a taco as an ID while his car was on fire

An allegedly-drunk Matthew Falkner drove his Chevy up to the Taco Bell drive-thru in Jensen Beach, Florida. Falkner ordered his taco, received it, and then fell asleep behind the wheel next to the drive-thru window. The Taco Bell manager quickly called the cops, because Falkner's car was preventing other customers from completing their orders. When a deputy woke Falkner and asked for his ID, he presented a taco instead. 

That's when they realized his engine was on fire, because he had been pressing the accelerator while his car was in park. After putting  the fire out, the police charged Falkner with a DUI and he was taken to jail. The moral of the story? If you crave Taco Bell when you drink, take an Uber.

A man ate 126 tacos in 8 minutes

Joey Chestnut broke the world taco eating record in May of 2017 when he scarfed down 126 traditional Mexican tacos in eight minutes at Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake, Minnesota. Two months later, he won a second taco eating championship by eating 92 tacos at  the Taco Truck Throwdown in Fresno, California.

He told the Miami Herald that he managed to win without even practicing. "If you don't know what it's going to taste like it's hard to practice, so practice is pointless. I kind of winged it. Next year I'll have an idea what they're going to taste like. I'll be practicing a little bit more." The second place winner, Matt Stonie, only choked down 83 tacos.

The largest flour taco in the world weighed over 1,500 pounds

The largest flour taco in the world was made by a staff of over 80 people using eight grills, and took around six hours to complete. It weighed over 1500 lbs and measured over 35 feet long. The taco was made as part of the celebration of Mexicali's 100th birthday. 

It was a true community event, with six different local vendors contributing to its creation. The taco contained over one thousand pounds of grilled steak, 186 pounds of dough, 179 pounds of onions, and 106 pounds of coriander. I wonder how many of those Joey Chestnut could eat in eight minutes!

Selma Hayek played a lesbian hard taco

It may not be one of her most well-known roles, but still, Selma Hayek played one hot lesbian taco in Sausage Party. When asked why she agreed to play this racy and stereotypical role, she told E! News, "I read the script. It was very funny. It was completely outrageous and so I said, 'Let's go!'"