If you're going to read this book, take heed: don't do so on an empty stomach.
That advice is even issued in the introduction: "Readers of this book be warned: a napkin will be required to catch the drooling that will inevitably occur when leafing through these pages." It's true - you'll be salivating as you read the descriptions of tacos made from all parts of the cow, pig, sheep and goat (vegetarians might have a hard time).
If you think of a taco as something that comes on a combination plate, along with an enchilada, rice and beans, Tacopedia will open your eyes. In Mexico, tacos are eaten from early morning until just before you stagger home after a long night of drinking, and they come in many forms. At its most basic, though, a taco is a filling wrapped in a corn tortilla - and both components are of equal importance.
The authors write, "For any Mexican, the last stop before heading home from a party is to enjoy some good tacos. On one such night, I was left open-mouthed observing the expertise and coordination of the taco makers … At a taco outlet, everything functions with precision: the speed with which the taco maker slices the taco al pastor from the upright grill, or the steak or any other filling he is cooking. The tortillas are shaped and heated to order, and the fresh salsas are placed on the table just as the customer arrives … The whole service works with a sense of rhythm and organisation that contradicts stereotypical ideas about Mexican apathy and inefficiency. I felt like I was observing a mechanism as reliable as a Swiss watch …
"It occurred to me there must be something deeply rooted in our culture that makes tacos the culinary wonder loved by the whole world [and] ensures the tortillas … are perfectly cooked, that the salsa has just the right level of spice … I realised that unlike any other dish, tacos are one of the most definitive traits of Mexican culture."
The book's many illustrations include: a "Tacography" - a map of Mexico outlining which regions specialise in certain types of taco; a demonstration on how to eat a taco (with instructions such as, "Proceed to raise the taco to your mouth - do it with class: the pinkie should be raised" and, "Hold your plate close, in case the guacamole drips out"); and drawings of the anatomies of various animals and what their "parts" are used for in the taco world.
It's not always easy to find the recipes among all this other information; they're interspersed between descriptions of ingredients, profiles of taco vendors and where in Mexico to find good tacos. But there are indeed recipes for carnitas tacos; home-style barbacoa; Suadero tacos with cheese and epazote; tripe tacos; squash blossom tacos; green enchiladas; refried beans; cheese cracklings; ant larvae tacos; bone marrow tacos; and Morelos-style deep-fried tacos.
Tacopedia by Deborah Holtz and Juan Carlos Mena