Pre-1,200 BCE: People in the New World discover nixtamalization, a process of soaking maize in water with wood ash that vastly increases the nutritional value of anything made from it, including corn tortillas.
1520’s: In recounting Hernán Cortés’s conquest of the Aztecs, Spanish historian Bernal Díaz del Castillo observes that “while Moctezuma was at table . . . graceful women . . . [brought] . . . him tortillas, kneaded with eggs and other sustaining ingredients.”
1904: The first recorded mention of tacos in a Texas newspaper appears in the San Antonio Light on June 5, describing the luncheon menu for a meeting of the Retail Merchants Association.
1922: The Austin Tortilla Manufacturing Company, the city’s first tortilla factory and the spiritual predecessor to its present-day taco trucks, opens under ownership of Crescenciano Segovia.
1937: Mitla Café opens in San Bernardino, California, where budding entrepreneur Glen Bell learns to make hard-shell tacos from the owners. He eventually opens Taco Bell, which will later become, tragically, the largest Mexican food chain in the world.
1952: George N. Ashley, of Ashley’s Inc. of El Paso, debuts an aluminum mold for creating a perfect U-shaped fried tortilla. It is marketed to housewives along with a booklet titled Mr. Taco Comes to America.
1970: James Loven, of San Fernando, California, is awarded a patent for the first taco holder, which looks like a winged butter dish. Countless variations later, taco holders are ubiquitous.
1978: Taco Cabana is founded in San Antonio in a vacant Dairy Queen, selling tacos, Mexican plates based on the owners’ family recipes, and margaritas. The chain now includes more than 160 restaurants in Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.
1999: Tacodeli opens in Austin, specializing in Mexican tacos and salsas, using some of the founder’s grandmother’s recipes but with an American spin. It expands to six locations, including one in Dallas.
2001: Fuzzy’s Taco Shop opens in Fort Worth. The shop is bought out two years later and franchised, making its reputation on feta cheese and garlicky “Fuzzy’s Sauce.” The chain now includes 85 locations in eleven states.
2006: Torchy’s Tacos starts in a trailer in Austin selling over-the-top Americanized tacos. It does not use the owner’s grandmother’s recipes. It now has thirty locations in Texas, plus five to open in Colorado.
2007: El Paso–raised astronaut Danny Olivas makes tacos in space.
2008: A small riot breaks out at a Chico’s Tacos location in El Paso when a fire starts at 2:41 a.m. Patrons begin throwing things when they realize they must abandon uneaten tacos, sans refund. Firefighters call for police backup.
2010: The New York Times writes on March 9, “When it comes to breakfast tacos . . . Austin, Tex., trumps all other American cities.” San Antonio taco lovers go ballistic.
2010: On September 4, Mexico City creates the world’s longest taco, at 134 feet. It is assembled in sections and contains several hundred pounds of pork, beef, chicken, beans, rice, and pineapple.
2011: Velvet Taco opens in Dallas, selling highly original multicultural tacos. They are definitely not based on the owner’s grandmother’s recipes. It expands to Fort Worth, Houston, and Chicago, with Austin on the way.
2012: A “taco cannon,” a device that shoots wrapped tacos into the air to be caught by eager fans, debuts at Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest.
2013: La Tacopedia, a 432-page illustrated encyclopedia, guide, and cookbook focusing on Mexico’s taco culture, is published.
2015: In January Taco Bell launches a social media petition to convince the Unicode Consortium to approve a taco emoji. Some purists object to Taco Bell’s preferred image, a crispy taco, calling it gringo-ized and old-fashioned. Others like it just fine.
2015: The long-awaited taco emoji wins approval from the Unicode Consortium in June. Taco lovers rejoice!
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