Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas


May 6, 2014

‘Esta Viejo Gringo’

I am an old “Gringo” who takes a great deal of pride in his cooking and I am especially proud of my Mexican specialties like green chili gravy, smothered burritos, tacos, tostadas, pico de gallo, and guacamole. The Good Wife and I also enjoy eating out at good Mexican restaurants. Our two very favorite Mexican restaurants down here in Sarasota are “Taco the Town” and “Aunt Chiladas.”

I don’t want to sound like an elitist, but I have never understood the attraction of “Taco Bell” for so-called “Tex-Mex” dining. To me, saying Taco Bell food is authentic Tex-Mex is like saying Chef Boy-R-Dee Spaghettios is authentic Italian cuisine. It has always seemed to me that their entire menu consists of the same huge vat of seasoned ground beef, scooped out in portions, and wrapped in different deep-fried containers to form tacos, burritos, chalupas, goditas, etc.

Now, I just came across a Yahoo News article entitled, “Taco Bell reveals its mystery beef ingredients.” It seems they have stated that their aforementioned “seasoned beef” is only 88 percent beef — making one immediately wonder what makes up the other 12 percent. Taco Bell’s website goes into great detail to explain that they use only USDA-inspected, “100 percent premium real beef” in their 88 percent beef. They go on to list the other ingredients that “ have weird names, but they’re all safe and approved by the FDA...” and “Each ingredient helps make our Seasoned Beef taste great...”

Here are some of the ingredients, followed by what Taco Bell had to say about them, and then what I have to say about them based on my exhaustive research on your behalf:

MALTODEXTRIN: “...actually a form of mildly sweet sugar we use to balance the flavor. You may have had it the last time you had a natural soda.” Mr. Wikipedia says it is a polysaccharide — a glucose-like substance derived from starch — usually wheat or corn.

TORULA YEAST: “This is a form of yeast that gives our seasoned beef a more savory taste.” Wiki says it is widely used in processed foods. It is produced from “wood sugars” as a by-product of paper production.

MODIFIED CORN STARCH: “...derived from corn, which is a food staple in Mexican culture as well as many others. We use a small amount as a thickener and to maintain moisture in our seasoned beef.” OK, I’ll buy that and I think I understand it.

SOY LECITHIN: “When you prepare as much seasoned beef as we do, you don’t want it to seperate...It helps (with moisture) to bind substances that would otherwise separate — like oil and water.” See, I told you there was a huge batch of the stuff.

SODIUM PHOSPHATES: “ help make sure our seasoned beef is the right texture...commonly found is deli items, cheeses, coffee drinks, and deserts.” Mr. Wiki says it is also used in medicine for constipation and to prepare the bowel for medical procedures. I have the dreaded colonoscopy coming up this fall and maybe I can dine on Taco Bell burritos instead of guzzling that evil solution from the drug store.

LACTIC ACID: “This safe acid occurs in almost all living things, and we use a very small amount to manage the acidity to get the right flavor.” OK, I’ll buy that too.

CARAMEL COLOR AND COCOA POWDER: “...caramel color is caramelized sugar...commonly used food coloring...Cocoa Powder doesn’t add any flavor to our recipe, but helps our seasoned beef maintain a rich color.” OK, on this one too. However, I question so much emphasis on color — after all, we are talking about browned hamburger meat.

TREHALOSE: “It’s a naturally occurring sugar that we use to improve the taste of our seasoned beef.” Mr. Wiki says it may also have antidepressant properties which might help me prepare for that colonoscopy.

Just when I make the argument that everything at Taco Bell is about the same, they throw me a curve and announce they are going into the breakfast business. That’s right — you can now enjoy breakfast burritos, steak and egg burritos, crunchwraps, grillers, and the outrageous “waffle taco.” This baby will get you sausage and eggs, wrapped in a waffle, and dripping with maple syrup. Yuuummmooo!

Taco Bell has had many catchy slogans over the past years. Do you remember the cute little chihuahua named “Gidget” who used to demand, “Yo quiero Taco Bell?” How about, “Grande taste. Loco value.” And the ever-popular, “Think outside the bun.” Their current slogan is “Live Mas.” I will close this rant with this quick bit of advice — if you eat too much of this deep-fried, special-seasoned cuisine, you will not only “Live Mas,” but you will “Weigh Mas!”

See ya...oh, by the way, I am fixing beef (special seasoned) burritos smothered in green chili gravy, with pico and guacamole for tonight’s din-din.


Dick Platt is a Daily Sun columnist. His column appears on Tuesdays.


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