Since Austin and San Antonio apparently face no real challenges, the elected leaders of both cities have decided that the best use of their time on Thursday morning is to extend the utterly absurd bickering over whose tacos are better into a stunt. At the Austin downtown Hilton, San Antonio’s Mayor Ivy Taylor and Austin’s Mayor Steve Adler will taste-test each other’s tacos in an event they’ve called the Taco Summit, and the lives of all citizens of both cities will surely be improved by it.
This is—and has been—a weird fight since the jump. It all started after an essay on Eater Austin claimed that Austin was the “home” of the breakfast taco, based on the claim that the term “breakfast taco”—a plain descriptor more than an actual name—came from the city that many tourists are more familiar with than points farther south where the dish actually originated. (Even that claim is dubious, since “breakfast taco” is literally what anybody might call a taco they’re eating for breakfast.)
At any rate, the author of the Eater post was dressed down in a hilarious Change.org petition demanding he be reeducated on tacos in San Antonio. The entire matter ought to have been settled there, with the goofiness of ignoring San Antonio and South Texas when discussing breakfast tacos appropriately ridiculed. But for some reason Adler decided to weigh in, delivering a speech laden with purple prose about the “breakfast taco war” he was waging against San Antonio.
“I come to you this morning with some grave news,” he told a group of hundreds of University of Texas volunteers during the opening ceremony to the school’s largest community service event of the year.
“The city of Austin is currently at war with San Antonio over a subject that I know we all hold dear in our hearts. That, of course, is breakfast tacos.”
“Now some may look out at you and see 1,500 shining examples of volunteerism and virtue, but I see something greater,” he told the crowd of student volunteers. “I see our army in a war against San Antonio. As your commander in chief for the Breakfast Taco War, it is my solemn duty to inform you that after you have selflessly given of yourselves, I will be drafting you into the Great Breakfast Taco War of 2016.”
For her part, Taylor responded simply that “Austin has nothing on San Antonio” when it came to tacos—until news of the summit broke this week, anyway.
Although it’s fun to opine that our civic leaders should be working nonstop to solve challenges like affordability, growth, disputes with technology and business leaders, and more, there’s nothing actually wrong with the two mayors getting some publicity for eating tacos together on a Thursday morning. (Sounds fun!) But it is weird that Adler is still engaged in this fight. Eater’s claims are indisputably wrong—the city is not the “home” of the breakfast taco anymore than it’s the “home” of barbecue, sushi, Detroit-style pizza, cupcakes, or any other food with origins that can be traced elsewhere (in the case of the breakfast taco, probably to Corpus Christi). For Adler to continue pitching this fight looks a little bit like an endorsement of the cultural appropriation at work in the original Eater essay.
That said, the tone of the discussion has been weird too. Specifically, much of the discussion has centered around how white, “hipster central” Austin has no legitimate claim on the breakfast taco—and while hipster-bashing has been a fun family activity for well over a decade now, it’s also an argument that threatens to erase people who’ve been serving up breakfast tacos in Austin for generations. Certainly spots run by, say, white chefs who toss out free tacos to anybody who picks up a ukulele wouldn’t have a legit claim to the legacy of the breakfast taco (and, it’s worth noting, those folks seem to have stayed well clear of this whole farce). But Austin’s population is 35 percent Latino, and its dining landscape features countless restaurants that serve up breakfast tacos—and have been doing so since well before SXSW started up or the word “hipster” was coined. There’s something gross about reducing those people and their culinary work to “white hipsters” because we’re mad at some dude who wrote an essay, or because we don’t understand why Adler is still defending the issue.
Hopefully all of this gets squared away at the Taco Summit, and the two mayors can announce a taco truce. Adler can say that he recognizes that people were wrapping eggs and potatoes or bacon or whatever they prefer in tortillas in the morning way before Tacodeli opened its doors, and Taylor can shout out the legacy of Austin breakfast taco institutions like Tamale House—and all taco-related matters will be settled on the lower stretch of I-35.