Does National Taco Day Include Taco Salad?

by Kevin Burton

   Finally, one of these national days I can really sink my teeth into: It’s National Taco Day!

   It appears that the celebration resides on Oct. 4 each year. It’s not a moving holiday, the way President’s Day is. So National Taco Day is not the first Tuesday in October.

   Nor should it be. It’s only the marketing people who have tied Tuesdays and tacos in our consciousness. More about Taco Tuesday later.

   First, we must address the raging controversy that I just dreamed up. Does National Taco Day include taco salad?

   The Burtons will be participating in Taco Day. My wife Jeannette and I are both going to eat taco salad.  The difference is she will start there, combining ground beef, salsa, lettuce and shredded cheddar cheese. I will start with ground beef, lettuce and cheese, skipping the salsa, but I will attempt to place the toppings into a crunchy Old El Paso taco shell.

   This shell, manufactured in Minneapolis (Old El Paso is owned by General Mills which has its headquarters in Minneapolis), placed into its cardboard and plastic packaging, shoved into cartons shipped around the country, loaded, unloaded and slammed around, this shell will remain in pristine perfect condition as pictured on the box, until such time as I try to eat it.

   Being ever so careful to open the plastic, I’m taken back to the 70s and that Milton Bradley game Operation. Remember that one?  You had to have a steady hand, remove the body part without touching the sides of that little opening, or else, a buzzer would sound. Failure!

   Well, my hands are on the plastic and I can already hear the shells cracking inside. No matter what I do on taco night I will end up with taco salad and a pile of Old El Paso taco shell debris.

   By now you’d think I would learn, cut to the chase and enjoy my taco salad as Jeannette does.

   So here’s a little taco history, courtesy the National Day Calendar. This tidbit works against my claim that taco salad should be celebrated along with tacos today.

    “The history of tacos predates the arrival of Europeans in Mexico. Anthropological evidence shows the native people living in the lake region of the Valley of Mexico traditionally ate tacos filled with small fish.”


  “At the time of the Spanish conquistadors, Bernal Diaz del Castillo, documented the first taco feast enjoyed by Europeans. Hernan Cortes arranged this meal for his captains in Coyoacan. It is unclear why the Spanish used the word taco to describe this native food. One suggested origin is the word ataco, meaning stuff or to stuff.”

    So if taco means stuff, then taco salad is probably not celebratable, since it isn’t stuffed into anything, except my mouth.  But I am going to ignore that. Cortes didn’t have to deal with disintegrating taco shells in plastic packaging. 

  As for Taco Tuesday, it’s such a fun little phrase, today and any day.  But don’t you know it’s the subject of some bitter litigation.  The Midwestern chain Taco John’s plays the heel here, going so far as to sue to ruin the fun and marketing efforts of smaller entities.

   “The trademark status of Taco Tuesday has led to some serious legal disagreements over the years,” according to an article on the website of Backyard Taco, a restaurant chain in Arizona.  “To start, the legal owner of Taco Tuesday is Taco John’s, a popular Midwestern chain of Mexican restaurants. This sounds pretty straight forward, but there’s a wide variety of other factors that need to be considered. Well, isn’t Taco Tuesday just a common phrase? Can a common phrase ever be trademarked by a single business entity? Plus, is it even true that Taco John’s was the first American restaurant to use the phrase Taco Tuesday, as a means to promote discounted tacos on Tuesdays?”

   No says Backyard Taco. The website cites Taco Tuesday references in print going back as far as 1933.

“Taco John’s has become increasingly infamous for their frequent cease and desist notices sent to smaller businesses, all of whom use the phrase Taco Tuesday in their marketing. Although these efforts haven’t been especially effective, Taco John’s continues to fight for the phrase Taco Tuesday, so that they can have it all to themselves.”

   It’s the corporate equivalent of throwing a big National Taco Day party, then pigging down  most of the food right in front of your on your family and friends.

    This is an evil act by Taco John’s. But fortunately it doesn’t have to show up anywhere on the radar on National Taco Day in my household or yours.

   So knock down a few, or more than a few tacos on this festive day, being careful, ever careful, to avoid the fish.

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