You “Quiero” Taco Bell Now?
I dunno. My favorite fast-food were the burgers made by a joint, no longer extant, in the Fillmore District of San Francisco in the 1960s. They were big and they were real meat, not processed and grilled, not fried. I’m sure we even tasted the blood off cut fingers that sliced up the onions and the French fries, that’s how real they were. Even when our family moved to East Palo Alto, down the Peninsula from San Francisco, on our visits back to the rapidly disappearing neighborhood being altered by Redevelopment, we would take those burgers home to eat. The warm, oniony, garlicky, mustardy, pickley aroma in the back seat of the Chevrolet would drive us crazy all the thirty-odd miles home.
When we arrived, my mother immediately went to the kitchen to turn on the electric oven (those are the days without microwave ovens), and we waited for it to warm up the burgers for five minutes, but it seemed longer. My brother and sister, being 3 and 4, in one particular memory, would share one big cheeseburger, cut in two, at the kitchen table. And of course, there was one all my own that I ate slowly, not even pulling the onions out, because it was all good. When they said quarter-pounders or half-pounders, they really meant it. I think it was quiet time when Dad, Mama, and we dug in and ate those wonderful burgers, and those French fries. Sometimes we couldn’t finish them, there was so much.
But those were the old days. And like Dick Gregory is reported to have said, “You don’t see no meat truck rolling over to McDonald’s, do you?”
These days I am lucky to eat from McDonald’s once a month, if at all. It’s not from lack of money, but way too much salt in the food. For me, there is no flavor from Mickey D’s food any more, not even from its back to basics sandwiches like the Big and Tasty. I get more flavor and taste from watching Steve Raichlen do his thing with meat, fish and fowl on the Create Channel. Whenever I see someone win a full barbecue grill on Let’s Make a Deal, I start to dream.
The same could be said about a meat truck not rolling over to Taco Bell, too. Taco Bell, a subsidiary of Yum! Brands (who also owns Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut), and a spin-off from PepsiCo, is the focus of a lawsuit that states that its vaunted tacos are only 35% beef and are really partly soy and other products.
The Montgomery (AL) law firm of Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles is suing the fast-food company for false advertising after attorneys had the Taco Bell “meat mixture” tested and found it contained less that 35 percent beef.
The nation – which until now had considered a Beefy Crunch Burrito? stuffed with Flamin Hot? Fritos? and slathered in nacho cheese sauce to be part of a nutritious diet – is appalled.
So what exactly is Taco Bell “meat”?
“Beef, water, isolated oat product, salt, chili pepper, onion powder, tomato powder, oats (wheat), soy lecithin, sugar, spices, maltodextrin (a polysaccharide that is absorbed as glucose), soybean oil (anti-dusting agent), garlic powder, autolyzed yeast extract, citric acid, caramel color, cocoa powder, silicon dioxide (anti-caking agent), natural flavors, yeast, modified corn starch, natural smoke flavor, salt, sodium phosphate, less than 2% of beef broth, potassium phosphate, and potassium lactate.”
“Polysaccharide absorbed as glucose.” Mmm-mm.
But look at ingredients #3 and #8 – isolated oat product and oats. Nothing wrong with oats, is there? Oatmeal is a significant sources of dietary fiber, which helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Any doctor will tell you that oats are better for you than red meat.
So while Taco Bell may be fudging on their “ground beef” with cheap filler, that filler could actually be healthier to eat. Taco Bell could doing its customers a favor by deceiving them.
Actually, by the time Taco Bell gets hold of those oats, they may be of no nutritional value at all. Add grease and tons of salt, and people are really cooking with gas. I’d rather get Boca Foods soy burgers or the black bean burgers that Morningstar Farms makes. Even then, some people have to watch the makers of these meatless burgers as well for ingredients that may be a no-no, too.
Look, I think that we always knew in the back of our minds that the fast food industry was pulling a fast one on us about what was real and what was phony. What’s new is that people are now insisting that the industry stop playing advertising games and tell us exactly what might be making us fat, depressed and sick so that we can make an informed decision about putting their food into our bodies. And it is not just the First Lady that is insisting on this. I think that a lot of activism about food and nutrition, starting from the Seventies onward, is finally being felt.
My feeling is this, if you are going to do fast food, make it at home where you can control the salt and add some spices that would really wake up the meat. On a good day, chop up some real chicken or real beef, season it, cook it through, and then freeze it in packs. When you supposedly don’t have any time or are too tired to cook, pull out a packet, nuke it for 2 or 3 minutes, and then have your own taco shell or bun with it. Put your own fixings like onions or avocado or salsa on it. Or go to a ma and pa restaurant that insists that they grind their own lean meat from real cows, and do take out. You can tell them what you want, or don’t want on the bun.
However, I haven’t been in a decent Mexican restaurant since I have been here in Madison. I particularly remember a Cubano restaurant that served blue margaritas that I liked in California. It may not be there any more, but I think about their fare with pleasure. Because that’s what even fast food should be–pleasurable. Texas and California is where the real deal is. So I am not running for the border at any time soon. It doesn’t take the place of home.