WASHINGTON (Circa) — It may not be "Taco Tuesday" but Oct. 4 is National Taco Day, which means it's automatically going to be a good day.
As much as I love tacos, I have to admit that before working on this story, I didn't really know how they came about. But I have a feeling quite a few of my fellow taco enthusiasts don't know either, even though Americans consume about 4.5 billion tacos a year!
Although the origin of the taco is a little fuzzy, professor Jeffrey Pilcher has been studying the history of Mexican food for more than 20 years and told Smithsonian magazine he has a good idea where it all started.
Pilcher told the magazine that tacos date back to the 18th century and were likely named after the hand-rolled paper and gunpowder explosives that Mexican silver miners used.
What's Cooking America notes that tortillas, which can be used for everything from tacos to enchiladas, have been around for thousands of years.
Tacos were first mentioned in an American newspaper in 1905, according to Ortega, which makes salsa, tortillas and other taco-related products.
"[The taco] was so popular because it was cheap and you could put so many different kinds of foods in it," Pilcher told Circa via email.
Taco Bell founder Glen Bell is credited with making Mexican food popular in the U.S., but Pilcher said he is not responsible for inventing the U-shaped hard shell that we see in grocery stores and restaurants today.
"Nobody knows who invented the modern taco shell, but it appears in Mexican-American cookbooks from the 1930s, and a patent on a tortilla frying frame was granted to a Mexican restaurateur in New York City, Juvencio Maldonado, in the late 1940s," Pilcher told Circa. "This was before Glen Bell opened his first Mexican restaurant."
But, hey, Taco Bell can take credit for some other wild taco creations like the Doritos Loco Taco and the oddly intriguing Chicken Biscuit Taco.
Ortega notes that because tacos are affordable and versatile, adventurous cooks continue to experiment and come up with delicious new options.
Editor's note: This story was originally published Oct. 4, 2017.