Tacos of Texas podcast kicks off third season with an exploration of school lunches

‘This season we’ve really honed in on our roots,’ says host Mando Rayo.

By Kristen Cabrera & Gabrielle MuñozAugust 18, 2023 2:20 pm, ,

The Tacos of Texas podcast is back for its third season, diving into topics from school cafeteria lunches to the simple bean and cheese taco out of San Antonio.

“This season we’ve really honed in on our roots, on the culture,” said host Mando Rayo. “Whether it’s thinking about ‘where does this term Tex-Mex come from?’ to really thinking about indigenous food ways, too.

Podcast producer Sharon Arteaga said that as she and Rayo were out in the field, themes kept emerging, including people looking back at what their ancestors did that either they had never learned about, or that they are still trying to keep alive.

“We’re putting the microphone in front of people who are often overlooked – like, nobody’s thinking of them as celebrities, but they’re keeping the food alive in their kitchens, in their restaurants,” Arteaga said. “And even the people as consumers – like the bean and cheese episode, it’s all about just like the fans of the taco. So I think it’s really great that we’re able to give a platform to lesser-known stories.”

And just in time for back to school, season three kicks off with an exploration of culturally relevant foods served in the Austin Independent School District’s elementary school cafeterias, inspired by Rayo’s 11-year-old son.

“We learned so much around how much [school lunches have] been updated, the recipes and the styles,” Rayo said. “Yes, it is Taco Tuesday, but they also have like a bean tamal; they have a Cuban bowl.”

Rayo said it was important for him to hear from students themselves, “the ultimate test,” as well as district officials.

“I was like, wouldn’t it be cool to talk to these kids and kind of like, ask them what they think of the foods, right? What are they eating at home? But also what are they eating at school? And then definitely thinking about like, well, at the school district, who’s in charge of really thinking about all these nutritional standards and what the menu looks like across the school district,” he said. “And also, when you look in an East Austin school and then you look at a West Austin school, those look way different. So the question was like, well, do they get better food because their building is better? Is there equity built in there? And so we explore that in the episode.”

Hear more from Rayo in the audio player above, and subscribe to Tacos of Texas here.

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