There are few things that Texans are as passionate about as their history or their music but this one might top it: their food.
Though Texas might be best known for its barbecue, one could easily make the case that there is a food more ubiquitous that might even serve as an edible metaphor for what Texas is today. We are, of course, talking about the taco.
If you doubt its importance, now hear this. A recent article that claimed Austin is “home of the crucial breakfast taco” has become more than just a manifestation of a little civic braggadocio. It’s become fightin’ words for many Texans who’d like to remind Austinites of some history.
The original taco journalist, writer and taco-lover Mando Rayo says he spoke with the writer at Austin Eater who made what some have called the “churlishly negligent” claim.
“He interviewed me for the story,” Rayo says, “and he did not heed a taco journalist’s advice. I told him, you need to look to South Texas: you need to look to San Antonio, the Valley and even towards Corpus.”
Rayo says the southern parts of the state reflect the breakfast taco’s Tex-Mex origins: wheat flour tortillas that originated in the area coupled with the culinary history of the area’s large Mexican population.
Texans south of the capital city “came out with their forks and knives,” Rayo says. A Change.org petition called for the Austin Eater writer to be “(thrown) out of an unmarked van well outside the boundaries of the state.”
“They don’t know what they stepped into,” Rayo says. “Part of it is the erasing of the culture.”
Rayo says placing the birthplace of breakfast tacos in Austin doesn’t call to mind its Mexican or Tejano cultural origin. The uproar came from what some have called “Columbusing,” he says – as when Christopher Columbus supposedly discovered America when the land, and its native people, were already here.
“It’s really about recognizing the history of a lot of Latino and Mexican families that introduced this food,” he says. “All of sudden, Austin is making it hip.”
Rayo says he also feels it’s important to stand up for mom-and-pop shops like Joe’s Bakery and Mi Tradición, rather than the Tacodelis and Torchy’s of a fast-gentrifying Austin.
“For me, I stand up for these Mexican families,” Rayo says. “They’ve been working here hard since the beginning of Austin.”
Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.