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Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  651 ratings  ·  127 reviews
Nationally syndicated columnist and bestselling author of ¡Ask a Mexican! Gustavo Arellano presents a tasty trip through the history and culture of Mexican food in this country, uncovering great stories and charting the cuisine’s tremendous popularity north of the border. Arellano’s fascinating narrative combines history, cultural criticism, food writing, personal ...more
Hardcover, 310 pages
Published April 10th 2012 by Scribner
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Average rating 3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  651 ratings  ·  127 reviews

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Jun 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
What an incredibly disappointing book.

If you know me, you know that I love Mexican food of all kinds. Whether it is cheap burritos in west Texas, high end alta cocina, regional dishes found in small Mexican villages, or moles that I make in my own kitchen, I love Mexican food. I have been known to plan vacations around Mexican cooking, including several cooking classes that my wife and I have taken. I am also very interested in food writing and the cultural history of food. So needless to say, I
Jeff Buddle
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Tacos rule. But you know this. There's nothing as good as a good taco. There's nothing as good as a good tamale. Maybe it's just me, but that's how I feel. Mexican food, properly prepared (and sometimes even improperly prepared) is the best.

I'll tell you this. I am a little bit romantic when it comes to Mexican food. So much so, when I finished this book, I literally emailed its author the following:


I just finished your book "Taco USA" and admire the work and dedication you put into it.
Apr 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Delicious... makes the mouth water. My favorite section was the four pages of San Diego style Mexican food in the burrito chapter, including the history of the "-bertos". Wish I could get a California Burrito out here!
Laura Brown
Oct 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'm happy to say that by the time the credits rolled, I've come to understand Mr. Arellano and give him kudos for this well-researched, funny, entertaining book. I found this book in a university library next to Michael Pollan, and was initially shocked out of my comfort zone by the differences between the two. Arellano peppers his book with reference to "gabachos," or the "pinche gringo," and other derisions of white America. Are they fairly earned? Maybe. Is the widespread generalization ...more
Sean Owen
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Food writing has to be the most dreadful genre. Worse even than Malcolm Gladwell pop psychology or memoir. It seems everyone is either a blowhard like Anthony Bourdain or on some quest to show off their bona fide cultural authenticity. Books like "Taco USA" show that it need not be that way.

If you're like me you know that two of the greatest programs to ever air on television are "A Hot Dog Program" and "Sandwiches You Will Like" In those programs the camera crew visited unpretentious, iconic
Lisa Church Sielen
Jan 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Really interesting about the origin of Mexican food in the US. I can now argue about what is "authentic" Mexican food.
Gabriela Quintero
Apr 05, 2015 rated it liked it
I feel this is book understands Mexican food and all those derived from it. It makes you understand why Americans have fallen for Mexican food and what that means for Mexican culture.

Aug 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Few books cover as much ground as Taco USA. While there is a slow chapter here and there, when it finds it's pacing it's a gripping read on the evolution of Mexican culture on food in the United States.
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting read on many restaurants I actually had been too
Caroline Mathews
Mar 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Taco USA is the second book that I've read this month about Mexican food in America. When I began, I was already a devotee of pure Mexican vanilla and the fair trade coffee of Oaxaca. Now, I've found a USDA certified organic chocolate bar!

Gustavo Arellano's book has gone a long way in answering my questions about the history of Tex-Mex and Cal-Mex, why the traditional recipes changed over time, the nutritiousness of the cuisine, and how the introduction of canning, the invention of machinery,
Jul 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: foodies
The U.S has been invaded! Oh and what a wonderful invasion it has been. I have a deep love for all food Mexican. I even married a beautiful young Mexican lady. And the green chili her Mama used to make was so wonderful. Now that tradition, along with many other wonderful recipes, have been passed to my wife. This book tells the story of how so many of these great foods crossed the border and created there very own regional favorites such as Tex-Mex and the Southwestern rage. So grab this book ...more
Colleen Greene
An entertaining and enlightening look at the history of the integration of Mexican food into American culture. People like me who were raised on fabulous home-cooked Mexican dishes passed down through the generations will get an added kick out of Arellano's descriptions of mainstream Mexican cuisine in the U.S.

Warning...this book will make you very hungry. I hit different types of Mexican (including fast food) eateries 4 times in 1 week.
Michael Norwitz
May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
The author of the 'Ask a Mexican' column pens a book about the history of Mexican food in the United States. Sometimes a bit light on details, and affecting a breezy style, he still managed to entertain and leave me consistently hungry while reading the book, which was certainly his intention.
Karen Bales
May 27, 2012 rated it liked it
This account of how Mexican food has made it's way into American cuisine is funny and informative. I admit to being one of the vanquished!
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book and learning the history of one of my favorite types of food
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a fun and engaging nonfiction read that was light enough to pick up and put down over the course of a month, but also informative and very well researched. I definitely was raised on Mexican food and thought I knew my stuff; this book definitely made me look around and go "Wtf is any of this."

While I probably won't remember every single founder of every single restaurant, here's a few major takeaways:

-Man, we bastardized Mexican food RIGHT AWAY. I had no idea we were canning tamales in
Thomas Kelley
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting book on the history of Mexican food, Tacos, burritos Tex-mex and most importantly the history of Tequila. It covers how places like Taco Bell, Chi Chi, Taco johns, Del Taco and others came about. The description of some of the food at the time that they had to make do with for the closes thing for Mexican food was pretty sad. Did you know there are or were can tortillas ? How disgusting. There is a chapter on real chocolate and Mexican hot coco which I can not wait to try. ...more
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
It took me a bit to get into this book, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. I found the initial chapters about vanilla and chocolate to be the least interesting and at first the author's light tone was a little abrasive. However, as he moved into trends and "Americanization" of different types of Mexican food, and the history therein (for example, how chili & tamales were initially popular, compared to the evolution of tacos and burritos), I could not have been more fascinated. I loved ...more
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Enjoyable book detailing the popularity of Mexican food not just in the Southwest but across America. The author describes the birth of taco, burrito, margarita and nachos- in many cases involving some of my favorite restaurants (El Cholo) or products (Tapatio). I learned why all the taco stands in San Diego End in Berto (founded by members of the same extended family). I am a fan of the author’s columns in the LOs Angeles Times, and his book is written in a similar style- filled with details ...more
Juan González
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
As a fellow OC native, I'd always been curious about reading Arellano's work; I really found this book by accident, while looking through the section of cookbooks at the Santa Ana library. All in all, this was a fascinating, and relatively straightforward, retelling of the histories of various companies, dishes, and foods that have come to define Mexican food's place in the United States (just as the title connotes). I did find this book truly fascinating, especially the bits about the history ...more
Lisa Herlocker
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
And now I'm hungry! Having grown up in California eating my mom's homemade Tex-Mex (because according to her CA Mexican food just wasn't as good) this book brought back a lot of memories. I love burritos and can remember their popularity rising in the '80s as the book discusses. The book explained much of what I experienced in travels throughout the Southwest and makes the valid point that Mexican food is not only yummy, but an essential American cuisine.
Stagger Lee
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
This history of Mexican food in the US is much more interesting, entertaining and in places enraging (as another gabacho makes a million from a Mexican's idea) than you'd probably expect. Written with humour and some subtle politics. Excellent stuff although it's cost me a packet sourcing obscurer ingredients to try and replicate some of the food he describes
Ronnie Ursenbach
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! Gustavo Arellano wonderfully tells the various tales of Mexican food’s journey into and through the US. Managing to avoid painting the culinary culture and it’s people as a monolith but instead reveling in it’s vast diversity and endless ingenuity. It’s a love letter to food and a historical journey all wrapped in a narrative voice that is both confident and likable.
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Densely packed with details, the book follows the history of tamales and tacos to burritos and tequila and everything in between (including Fritos and Doritos and Taco Bell).

Food to eat while reading the book: Por supuesto, you will crave Mexican food.
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Totally enjoyed the book. I have even visited several of the establishments he mentions in the book. All true observations so maybe the rest of the book is true as well. Lots of good background in his documentation.
Amber Ray
May 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
Mexican food is very much the food of Southern California--to the point that it's hard to remember it was once exotic and foreign food! Interesting book relating how the major chains came about, culture and different kinds of foods.

Made me crave Mexican food like hell too reading it.
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
A fascinating look at the history of Mexican food in the US.
Robert Bob
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Interestin, Fun , Historical read on Mexican-American food culture.
A place in pop culture. .
Jan 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
I often liked Arellano's voice and the details he chose to emphasize. Just as often, I was completely bored.
Brenda Morris
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A fascinating history of Mexican food's origins and influence in the US.
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Gustavo Arellano is the author of ¡Ask a Mexican!, a nationally syndicated weekly column published by Orange County's alternative weekly OC Weekly. It was first published in 2004 as a one-time spoof, but it ended up becoming one of the weekly's most popular columns.

Every week, readers would submit their questions based on Mexicans, including their customs, labor issues, and illegal immigration.
“It was a mission of celebration: never had two Mexican-Americans flown up in space on the same mission, and never did burritos shine so brightly.” 2 likes
“Espero la cosecha de mi sueño sirva como inspiracion a todos!” he enthused via Twitter. “I hope the harvest of my dream serves as inspiration to all!” 0 likes
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