Consider for a moment the marvel that is the taco. Some Texans might think it’s a food that needs no improvement. But a novel idea cooked up by Kaitlin Ruiz’s father Roberto went viral with almost a half-million likes.
for years my dad has argued that what the world needs is “the travel taco” i.e. a taco with sealed edges to keep all the filling from falling out while you’re on the move. and for years my mom has patiently explained the concept of burritos.
— Kaitlin Ruiz (@Kaitlin_M_Ruiz) March 26, 2022
Kaitlin tweeted Roberto’s idea for the “travel taco” – a possible solution to the problem of taco contents inevitably spilling onto one’s lap while driving.
“I love potato and egg. And the one thing that always struck me was, you’re trying to drive … and so at some point a piece of egg or potato would pop out of my taco. And you know, how frustrating is this? Roberto Ruiz told Texas Standard
Roberto and Kaitlin Ruiz spoke to Texas Standard about their vision for the travel taco, and how it has strengthened their father-daughter bond. Listen to the interview with the Ruizes in the audio player above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: Kaitlin, I understand it’s your father who came up with his innovation, is that right?
Kaitlin Ruiz: Yeah, that’s right. It’s been his brainchild for about as long as I have.
I want to turn to him then. Perhaps we should start off by getting to know a bit more about you, Roberto. You live in Corpus Christi, right?
Roberto Ruiz: That’s correct. Born and raised here in South Texas.
Tell us a little bit about what you did that has gotten you so much attention. You have come up with a way to make traveling with the taco a little bit less messy?
Roberto: Yeah, when the kids were small, we traveled a lot to and from [Corpus Christi] because we lived just a little bit outside of town, in Orange Grove – that’s about a 35-minute commute to Corpus. And so we come into town and do whatever. Of course, invariably we’d pick up a taco and, you know, I love potato and egg. And the one thing that always struck me was, you’re trying to drive, which is probably not a safe thing to do, like texting and driving. And so at some point a piece of egg or potato would pop out of my taco. And you know, how frustrating is this?
Of course, I know the kids listen to me, but I didn’t think Kaitlin took it to heart. But I, just out of out of frustration. I would just say, ‘You know, they do need to make a taco that is sealed up; not unlike an empanada, but yet with the flour tortilla, that could pretty much just hold all the entrails of the taco and not allow it to leak out or spill.
So you came up with the “travel taco,” and I suppose you probably thought that was the end of things, at least the end of messes in your lap if you were driving or something like that. But Kaitlin, you took it to the next level. What exactly did you do?
Kaitlin: I’m still trying to figure that out myself because I’ve been so baffled by the whole thing. I post a lot of things, anecdotes and conversations that I have with my dad because we talk a lot and we’ve always been kindred spirits. And one evening I just thought, “Oh, remember the travel taco?” And I posted it and put away my phone to do something else? And I came back an hour later and my phone had crashed, so it had already taken the life of its own.
You have quite the audience now. Have you been hearing from anyone who says, “Hey, I want to be a part of this action. I think I have an idea for how to make this a thing”?
Kaitlin: There are a lot of cooks who have some ideas, and I’m not a culinary expert so it’s all like a magic trick to me watching, like, I don’t know how this works. Nobody has approached me and said, “Here is our blueprint for the thing.” But within about four hours of the thing taking off, a gentleman sent me a [direct message] to say, “I bought the domain name to the website, if you want thetraveltaco.com.
Roberto, I sense that you have hit on something very significant to a large number of people across the country and maybe beyond. Have you ever been a taco chef or anything along those lines? Or was this just something that was born of necessity?
Roberto: You know, I was immersed in it. I mean, my mom would make tortillas every morning and chunk them at us like an amateur discus thrower. And so, you know, for me, it’s always been part of our diet, and it’s pervasive down here in South Texas. I mean, everywhere you go, there’s a taco place. And so it’s just one of those things that took a life of its own, really.
I’m just really impressed that at so many people are like, “Hey, have you made it yet? Have you created it?” In an indirect way I feel obligated now to come up with a working prototype, although some, much to my chagrin, would say that, you know, “It’s already been done; it’s a burrito.” It’s not a burrito! At least that’s not the vision I have.
Is this something that say you’d entertain perhaps a partnership with a corporation or something along those lines to make this happen?
Roberto: It’s not beyond the realm of reason. I already have kind of, a least, mentally, I have a working prototype to how to actually facilitate the shape and to get the seal. It’s just a matter of partnering with somebody to create it. So it’s going to have to be, like, a three-dimensional comal, which, comal, at least the verbiage down here is synonymous with a cast-iron plate that you heat up. And then once you lay the tortilla on it, it’ll start to cook and and then rise and all those other things. So that’s what this is going to take.
And so I have an idea, I really do, truly. I mean, all kidding aside, Kaitlin knows I’m a bit of a joker, but I’m also a dreamer, and I’ve always felt like I just need to follow through once in a while.
Kaitlin, now look what you’ve done! I bet your dad was never expecting anything like this. That tweet thread must be something. What are folks saying?
Kaitlin: So many of the comments have been really, really lovely. And I think about three hours after it took off, a friend had mentioned, “Hey, maybe you shouldn’t read all the comments; when things go viral, people tend to be a little hostile.” And that had not been our experience at all.
A lot of people have chimed in to share stories about their dads maybe who have passed or, you know, haven’t seen in a while. People have reached out to talk about ways that maybe they remember cooking at home growing up. One guy Bill reached out because he and his 9-year-old daughter spent an afternoon together trying to come up with a prototype for the travel taco. And they sent us a video; it’s really great.
It goes beyond the taco, doesn’t it? This is a father-daughter thing like few have ever experienced.
Roberto: Yeah, it sure is. I love my girl, you know, and nothing but respect for her. She’s a great writer, too. … I think that’s what’s driving the whole thread is it hit a nerve with some people in terms of just the relationship they have with their parents and some of the anecdotal things that they can recall that they never thought to actually put on Twitter or whatever else. And she’s done it, and she’s really well versed at language. That’s the one thing about her. I’m so very proud of her, in general, because she’s my daughter and I love her. But but she’s just a phenomenal writer.
Kaitlin, that must make you feel good.
Kaitlin: Yeah, I mean, my dad is one of my best friends, and my parents have done so much always to support me, whether that’s phone calls while they’re on a commute. And we can just gossip about the latest thing we’ve been watching, or when I was a little kid, making sure I had any book that I wanted. I always felt so loved by them, and I love my dad; I think he’s great. And it’s just made me so happy to see other people come to the same conclusion as I have.