Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Think outside the bun

Taco Bell . . . I’m almost embarrassed to admit it but I love those tacos, gorditas and, yes, especially the chalupas!  Go ahead; say what you will but those little bundles of greasy goodness rock!  Topped with Fire Sauce . . . quasi-Mexican nirvana.  Hijole frijole!

Glenn Bell was a lover of Mexican food take-out.  Back in the late 1940’s there was no such thing as fast-food tacos.  If he wanted tacos he’d have to order them from a full service restaurant.

"If you wanted a dozen," he recalls, "you were in for a wait. They stuffed them first, quickly fried them and stuck them together with a toothpick. I thought they were delicious, but something had to be done about the method of preparation."

When he returned home from his service in World War II he had opened a traditional hot-dog and hamburger joint called Bell’s Drive-in.  His mind started turning towards alternate menu options . . . like his beloved tacos.   He sold his original store and opened a new restaurant.  It could be operated by one person and was drive-thru only. 

Glenn thought it would be more efficient to fry the shells first and stuff them later.  He invented a tedious one-at-a-time method for frying the shells.  Once he had the shells he experimented with fillings until he got it just right.   He sold his tacos from a side window of a little stand for 19 cents a piece.

"I'll never forget the first taco customer because naturally, I was really concerned about his reaction. He was dressed in a suit, and as he bit into the taco the juice ran down his sleeve and dripped on his tie. I thought, 'we've lost this one,' but he came back, amazingly enough, and said, 'That was good, I'll take another one!' "

In five years he had three restaurants that were making $50,000 a year each   . . . that’s more than $400,000 in today’s money.  In 1956 he was earning the equivalent of over a million dollars a year. 

He knew he had a good thing going and he wanted to take advantage of his success. 

His restaurants were called El Tacos at that time.  It wasn’t until 1962 that he built the first Taco Bell . . . actually, eight of them and they are all still operational today.  The first franchise was sold in 1964.  It was so popular that it was not uncommon for it to clear $10,000 in one month ($70,000 today).

By 1975, Glenn had 868 Taco Bell’s and he was running out of energy.  He sold all the franchises to PepsiCo, Inc.  When the deal was done Glen Bell ended up a major PepsiCo shareholder and millions richer. Ay chihuahua!

Ah . . . the American Dream.  Viva la capitalism! 

Speaking of Chihuahuas . . . in 1997 Taco Bell started a new advertising campaign starring a doggie named Gidget.  The voice-over . . . declairing "¡Yo quiero Taco Bell!" . . . was in a man’s voice.  Gidget was all girl.

In one commercial, the dog attempted to trap Godzilla in a box, taunting the reptile with the phrase "Here, lizard lizard lizard..." only to see Godzilla's size and respond "Uh-oh... I think I'm going to need a bigger box." (a reference to Jaws.)

Despite the chihuahuas’ pup-ularity, the campaign didn’t increase revenue for Taco Bell so they discontinued the campaign in 2000. 

Gidget was 15 years old when she was euthanized on July 21, 2009 after suffering a stroke.  She was cremated and her ashes were retained by her trainer.


Mmmm . . . let's make tacos!

Taco Seasoning

1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Onion Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1/4 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
1/2 Teaspoon Paprika
1 1/2 Teaspoons Ground Cumin
1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
1 Teaspoon Black Pepper

Mix together chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. 

Taco Sauce

1 15 Ounce Can Tomato Sauce
1 1/2 Cup of Water
1 1/2 Teaspoon Chili Seasoning
3 Teaspoons Cumin
2 Tablespoons White Vinegar
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 Teaspoon Garlic Salt
1 Teaspoon Sugar
1 1/2 Teaspoon Red Cayenne Pepper
1 1/2 Teaspoon Onion Powder

In a small sauce pan, mix all ingredients in the order that they are listed, stirring to mix them together.

Simmer the ingredients for fifteen to twenty minutes, allowing the spices to blend together.

Sauce may be served warm or cold, as you prefer. Pour leftover sauce into a jar and keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Cornmeal Tortillas

3/4 Cup Cornmeal
1-1/4 Cups Flour
1 Teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Shortening Or Oil
1 Cup Boiling Water
Waxed Paper

In a bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour and salt. Add the shortening/oil in the bowl with the cornmeal and flour. Pour the boiling water over everything and stir it up with a fork. Stir until all lumps are worked out of the dough. Allow the mixture to cool. Divide the dough into 10 lumps about the size of golf balls.

 Roll each ball out very thinly between sheets of waxed paper or use a tortilla press. Loosen and remove the top sheet of paper, and lay the tortilla down on a hot dry skillet. When the underside of the tortilla is dry with a few brown spots, turn it and cook the other side.

This recipe makes 10 corn tortillas.


1 Lb Hamburger Meat
1 Taco Seasoning Mix
10 Tortillas
2 Cups Grated Cheddar Cheese
1 Diced Tomato
1 Bunch Green Onions, Chopped
1/2 Head Shredded Lettuce
1 Taco Sauce
1 Avocado, Sliced
Container Sour Cream

Brown hamburger meat and drain fat when cooked. Add a cup of water and taco seasoning mix to meat and let simmer.

Put lettuce/cheddar cheese/onions/tomato/avocado into separate bowls.   Also include containers of salsa/sour cream and taco sauce.

It is time to eat. Let everyone dish up and enjoy their  tacos.

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