Taking a cue from good friend and fellow MS, Evan Goldstein, I tend to put food and wine pairings into three distinct categories. First, there’s “Switzerland” where the dish and the wine stay in their own lane and refuse to interact, not unlike a group of middle school kids at a dance. The opposite is “train wreck in the mouth” where the food and wine clash so epically, so ecumenically, and so severely, that even the thought of the combination can immediately cause human pathos and suffering. A good example would be oysters on the half shell with a tannic Cabernet Sauvignon. No further explanation needed.
Finally, there are magic combinations when a pairing transcends the individual food and wine components involved. Evan calls these pairings “2 + 2 = 5.” A good example would be a botrytis desert wine like Sauternes with a salty blue cheese like Stilton. To the latter category I would also add pairing Champagne with popcorn—or potato chips—where all the tiny little bubbles are a perfect dancing partner with the carbohydrates, salt, and just the right touch of fat. Speaking of fat, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention bacon. It’s a category—a culinary universe—all to its own. I think you can drink practically any decent wine, regardless, of style, with good bacon.
Then there’s tacos. Having just now looked online, I can pass on a bit about the history of the humble and yet noble taco. The name comes from the Nahuatl word “tlahco” which means “half or in the middle,” referring to the way it’s formed. Otherwise, back in the day soft corn tortillas filled with fish and cooked organ meat were a staple. The modern taco, if we can call it that, was introduced to the U.S. in the early 20th century when Mexican migrants came to the country to work on the railroads and in mines. However, many gringos were first exposed to the mighty taco through Mexican food carts in Los Angeles and other SoCal environs that were run by women called “chili queens.” By then organ meat and other traditional exotic fillings had been replaced by ground beef and chicken not to mention the now ubiquitous lettuce, tomato, and onions.
The rest, as they say, is cultural culinary history with food trucks still being the urtext of taco-dom, offering the purest expression of folded tortilla art. But the taco universe is vast. If one feels like going trailer park, there’s always a quick drive through/drive by south of the border experience at Taco Bell. If anything, the latter proves the invincibility of the taco. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the taco is the baseball of popular food culture in that it can’t be broken. With baseball, regardless of the all the changes to the game over the years, including the infield fly rule, the designated hitter, and the recently adopted pitch clock, the game is still its brilliant and pure self.
So, too, tacos remain clearly identifiable despite various attempt to make them into gaudy culinary gewgaws. It’s not unreasonable then to assume that tacos could easily fall into Evan’s last category with the combination of savory, salty, and fatty being a veritable launching pad for practically any style of wine including personal favorites like Bohemia and Modelo Especial. Otherwise, I’ll cast my vote for tacos being the ultimate comfort food. Because there are times when we all want tacos. Just ask the guy who was recently dropped off near Area 51 here in New Mexico outside of Roswell. He doesn’t need money or a ride. He just needs his tacos.