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Don’t mess with breakfast tacos.
On Friday, Eater Austin published an article that has since become the center of controversy in the taco world. A veritable taco-gate, if you will. Matthew Sedacca, the writer behind “How Austin Became the Home of the Crucial Breakfast Taco,” set out to deliver the history of the dish as it pertains to the state capital. The response on social media has been swift, resulting in many comments claiming the piece commits cultural appropriation and resulting in an online petition to throw Sedacca out of Texas.
The number of signatures on the petition has grown rapidly, with more than 500 supporters within the 11 hours of its existence.
In the original article, Sedacca writes, “Like most foods in the Tex Mex pantheon, the breakfast taco was born out of cross-pollinating Mexican culture with Anglo-Germanic ingredients that were available in Texas.” While later saying the dish’s origins “lie in the kitchens of immigrant Mexican families living in Texas,” the article cites only one other city in Texas. Corpus Christi during the 1950s, as explained by food writer Robert Walsh, saw the “first instance” of the breakfast taco, known then as the breakfast “taquito.”
Walsh is the man behind book titles such as “The Tex-Mex Cookbook,” “Legends of Texas Barbecue” and “Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook.” Citing this taco historian, Sedacca writes Austin is the birthplace of the phrase “breakfast taco” and also the city behind the food’s rise to fame. The South By Southwest festival also had a hand in attracting tourists from all over the country who then spread taco appreciation to cities outside of Texas, according to Walsh.
“So the word went out, and in Brooklyn and L.A., you can get Austin-style breakfast tacos,” Walsh told Eater Austin.
Tamale House’s Diana Vasquez-Valera told Sedacca the story of her father’s past visit to California. Tacos were sold outside of a sit-down restaurant environment, which inspired the Austin restaurant. But even she told the publication the tacos were “not an overnight sensation, but a novelty, a delicioso concept.” Tacodeli’s Roberto Espinosa also drops a line about the democracy of the breakfast taco.
Many comments on the article mention San Antonio as another important city in the taco game, as well as the south Texas region. (Full disclosure, this breakfast taco-loving writer hails from San Antonio.)
“Tejanos have been eating them for centuries, and the Taco Cabana chain, from San Antonio, found a very strong foothold in the mid 1970s— long before what this article mentions Austin as experiencing,” user Artisus writes.
“I’m from San Antonio but live in Austin. Breakfast tacos are awesome but their ‘home’ definitely isn’t Austin as much as it is San Antonio. Sorry dude,” writes user mina184184.
On an Eater Austin Facebook post, commenters echoed those complaints.
“Only a place like Austin would claim itself to be the home of breakfast tacos, or the original creator of the phrase ‘breakfast taco,'” writes user Jason Ybarbo. “There’s a whole region south of Austin that would beg to differ on this claim, but we know how much Austin likes to practice cultural appropriation while socio-economically segregating said cultures.”
“An article regarding the origin of the breakfast taco that fails to mention its neighbor 80 miles south is simply ridiculous,” writes user Greg Goodman.
But back to the petition. Among other complaints, the call for Sedacca’s ouster states that “More absurd is the notion that ‘breakfast taco culture’ was either codified or normalized by a generation of birkenstock-clad tech-jockeys and university incubatees majoring in Phish and Social Safety Net Surfing, and not by the laborers who spent the last century waking up at 5 am, breaking their fast on huevos con papas outside a truck, to build the aforementioned demographic’s luxury condos.”
The online petition calls for some rather creative resolutions, including “immediate deportation of the offender to a neighboring state where more liberal interpretations of ‘tacos’ are tolerated”; a ban on taco-centric writing until courses on “Applied Taqueria Studies and a seminar in Tex-Mex Disambiguation” are completed; “re-education and re-habilitation” courtesy of the City of San Antonio; and a “San Antonio Day” observed in Austin to include “public singing of songs that beg forgiveness for all taco-related transgressions.”
Despite the petition and online comment backlash, Sedacca seems to be taking it in stride, posting a photo on Twitter with a burrito, thumbs up and a smile with “burritos 4 life” as the caption.
burritos 4 life pic.twitter.com/o6lbtKInv6
— Matthew Sedacca (@matthewlevine13) February 22, 2016