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National Taco Day: The history behind the handheld, fast food favorite

Today marks the 12th anniversary of National Taco Day. 

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, National Taco Day, which falls on Oct. 4 every year, was started in 2009 by the restaurant chain Del Taco. 

The tradition has continued over the last 12 years and received support from other restaurant chains, which offer deals and freebies on the food holiday.  

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Though National Taco Day is a relatively new food celebration, the food” target=”_blank”>taco < with Smithsonian Magazine, Jeffrey M. Pilcher, a food historian and currently a professor at the University of Toronto, said it is unknown when the taco was invented, but the word “taco” is believed to have started in the silver mines in Mexico om the 18th century. 

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According to Pilcher, the miners called the pieces of paper wrapped around gunpowder and placed into holes in the rock face “tacos.”

“When you think about it, a chicken taquito with a good hot sauce is really a lot like a stick of dynamite,” Pilcher told Smithsonian Magazine. 

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, National Taco Day -- which falls on Oct. 4 every year -- was started in 2009 by restaurant chain Del Taco. (iStock)

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, National Taco Day — which falls on Oct. 4 every year — was started in 2009 by restaurant chain Del Taco. (iStock)

He added that it wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that tacos are mentioned in an archive or dictionary. 

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According to the Farmer’s Almanac, Mexican immigrants were selling tacos in the southwestern U.S. as early as the 1880s and by the 1920s, those taco recipes were “adapted to appeal more to the American palate.”

Pilcher told Smithsonian that the first time a taco was mentioned in the U.S. was in a 1905 newspaper. In the 1910s and 1920s, tacos became more mainstream in the U.S.

Today, tacos continue to become more popular and can be found just about anywhere, from fast food chains to gourmet restaurants, the Farmer’s Almanac says.  (iStock)

Today, tacos continue to become more popular and can be found just about anywhere, from fast food chains to gourmet restaurants, the Farmer’s Almanac says.  (iStock)

Tacos became a fast food favorite with the creation of the “taco shell” – or a pre-fried tortilla shaped in a “U,” which was patented in the 1940s to Mexican restauranteurs, Pilcher told Smithsonian. 

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Today, tacos continue to become more popular and can be found just about anywhere, from food to gourmet food, the Farmer’s Almanac says. 

“[Tacos are] quite possibly one of the most versatile, delicious, and easy-to-make foods out there,” the almanac says on its website. 

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