My heart is filled with pride that the University of Kentucky is now offering college classes on tacos. Professor Steven Alvarez is teaching “Taco Literacy: Public Advocacy and Mexican Food in the US South” this semester on UK’s Lexington campus.
Required reading for the course: “Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food”by Jeffrey M. Pilcher; “Tacopedia” by Juan Carlos Mena and Deborah Holtz, and “Taco USA” by Gustavo Arellano.
“Tortillas: A Cultural History” by Paula E. Morton is also part of the syllabus. All of these tomes enjoy space in my library room.
But whither goest Robb Walsh? His “Tex Mex Cookbook” is an excellent primer on tacos and serves to exalt that most glorious American cuisine, Tex Mex. My life is richer having read this book.
Over the last decade I’ve managed to visit Lexington’s “Mexington” barrio a handful of times. My mother’s favorite food is Tex Mex so anytime I venture home to Kentucky I drive up to Cardinal Valley, the neighborhood that carries that appellation, to lay in supplies so I can produce a Mexican foods feast for my family.
There are a dozen or so tiendas, tortillerias, taquerias, and sundry Mexican businesses in that region; any one of them could open in Austin, Texas and make good money. Professor Ramirez sends his students into the neighborhood to do “…restaurant reviews and taco tours in the area”
I can vouch for the fact that they will be well-fed.
Walking across the University Of Kentucky’s campus last year I was struck by the employ of Brutalism in the architecture of the buildings. The stark, box-like structures held little visual appeal but had I known that inside one of the outposts a dream of bringing taco literacy to the student body was fomenting I would’ve viewed the college in an entirely different light.
Most of Kentucky’s view of Mexican food is skewed through the prism of a bright yellow Old El Paso taco box. If Professor Steven Alvarez can change that for even one student then the program is worthy of inclusion in the old land grant college’s curriculum.