Summer is a season of road trips and outdoor get-togethers and both of those things include fun food. That’s why José Ralat’s new book, “American Tacos: A History and Guide,” is a great summer read.

“American Tacos” is the culmination of eight years of road trips, taco tasting and research by Ralat, who is taco editor for Texas Monthly and voice of the acclaimed Taco Trail blog. He ventured from coast to coast and border to border, visiting 38 cities including El Paso.

It’s a delicious journey through the evolution of tacos and how they have been adapted to appeal to different regional tastes across the multicultural U.S.

“American Tacos” is layered with information and organized by types of tacos. It’s part cultural history book, part Zagat guide and part travel planner for taco explorers. 

It’s also a deconstructed cookbook of sorts with insights into the ingredients and preparation of some of the tastiest tacos Ralat discovered in his journeys. 

Tortillas are canvasses on which culinary artisans assemble collages of ingredients. 

“American Tacos” will spark the imagination of anyone who loves making tacos. 

Throughout, Ralat dishes up people and places in El Paso, weaving a story of “how important El Paso is to American tacos and Mexican food in the United States.” 

Popular local eateries – Chico’s Tacos, Lucy’s Café, Ke’ Flauta and Tacoholics – account for four of the 14 taquerias featured in his mini-guide to crispy tacos, which he labels “cultural touchstones” of El Paso. 

There’s a nod to “grouch Maynard Haddad” and the landmark H&H Car Wash. 

Ralat’s interest in kosher tacos led him to Peter Svarzbein’s Conversos y Tacos, an art installation and food truck. And he credits an El Paso tortilla factory with reintroducing, once-forgotten flour tortillas to the U.S. in the mid-1950s.

Ralat’s casual, conversational style and his passion for all things taco make for a delightful read. Reading “American Tacos” is like listening to a friend share his adventures over a shared plate of tacos and a bucket of cold beers. 

You’ll find yourself dipping back into this book like your favorite salsa.

“...tacos are a gift to be appreciated with friends and strangers,” Ralat writes. “No other food in America brings people together like tacos.”

“American Tacos” is the perfect book to help you appreciate the social and culinary importance of tacos and El Paso’s influence on Mexican food across America. a

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