Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tacos, anyone?

About two years ago, two teenage boys from Italy stayed with us for about five days as part of a student exchange through my daughter’s school.

This week, we’re hosting two teenage boys from Portugal as part of the same project.

With the Italians, I made tacos for dinner one night: easy-to-cook and conveniently serve a group. Although the poor Italians were stunned and hardly ate a thing, I thought I’d try it again anyway with the Portuguese boys.

But alas, when we told them we were having tacos for dinner, they asked what “tacos” are. When we pointed to pictures of meat-filled wraps on the tortilla package and cornmeal shells on the taco box, there were no signs of recognition. Nonetheless, we took them through the ritual of stuffing a tortilla, and restrained our amusement as they first tried to cut the wraps with a knife and fork (which caused the wraps to flop open, bringing our guests back to square one) then follow our example of picking them up and eating them rolled (but neglected to hold the bottom closed whereby all the filling slid out onto the plate). They ate one each but declined seconds.

What astonishes me is that even in Sweden, tacos and tortillas are, today, common, everyday food. Any Swede under 60 can handle a taco. So is Sweden preternatural in its culinary tastes? Or is Continental Europe gastronomically chauvinistic?

Teenagers who’ve never seen a taco? Who’d have thought!


  1. This is too funny! Love your comment amount what teenager doesn't know what a taco is. Geez. Sheltered? Gotta serve up them meatballs!

  2. I remember living in French House in college and learning from our foreign exchange students that French people don't eat peanut butter because peanuts are "for pigs" (i.e., animal feed). PBJ sandwiches were anathema! But Nutella is okay because it contains hazelnuts.

  3. What I wonder is why should Swedish style "Tacos" be universal? What you are describing, a soft flour tortilla wrapped around a filling isnt even a Taco as I remember them from Calafornia. Its a burito. Taco shells are deep fried and crispy. But maybe your essay, Michelle, was meant as a joke. If it wasnt meant as a joke then I think you're becoming too "Swedish".

    Sverige Brunsås this week on SVT was exactly about Swedish perceptions about food. Discussed the Taco issue too.


  4. The essay was, shall we say, tongue-in-cheek. You’re right – the distinction between burrito and taco is completely lost in Sweden. That’s why I kind of lumped it all together as “taco.” (In that sense, I have “gone native”!) But I still find it a little surprising that with all these “new-fangled” wraps, tortillas, etc., that a Continental teenager hadn’t a clue how to eat the thing.

    I don’t watch Landet Brunsås. I’m very curious – what did they have to say about Swedish food perceptions and tacos?


  5. Just because American tex-mex fast food has come to Sweden doesnt mean its world-wide. Portugal isnt even a spanish speaking country so maybe thats another reason not to be interested in "spanish" food.

    Landet Brunsås had the Mexican consul come to dinner at the home of one of the hosts and eat "Tacos" and she made it clear that it wasnt real "Mexican" food but American Tex-Mex. The show also made the point that all the non Swedish food influences here didnt get here because of immigrants to Sweden. Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Thai food etc. came here via the United States' influenece. It was interesting. You can see it on SVT play at:


  6. I guess that's still my point. Authentic or not, "tacos," Tex-Mex," or whatever you want to call it/them are widely available in Swedish grocery stores today (apparently thanks to Kraft or some other big American food conglomerate), and I assume also available in Continental grocery stores. So the question is: Are Swedes adventurous eaters or am I wrong - a taco shell cannot be found in Italy or Portugal, or perhaps Continentals shun them if they are available? Only Spar knows for sure! ;-)


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