Taco Bell and the Death of Americana
by Suresh Hanubal
Taco Bell is an American institution. Its Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes, Mexican Pizzas, Bean Burritos, Chalupas, Baja Blasts, and other venerable items have long powered the American landscape and my own life. However, recently the Bell has decided to betray the American people by removing some of these treasured foods from its expansive menu. Specifically, over the course of the last two months, TB has eliminated from its offerings the Mexican Pizza, Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes, Shredded Chicken Soft Taco, Shredded Chicken Burrito, Shredded Chicken Quesadilla Melt, Pico de Gallo, Grilled Steak Soft Taco, 7-Layer Burrito, Quesarito, Nachos Supreme, Beefy Fritos Burrito, Spicy Tostada, Triple Layer Nachos, Spicy Potato Soft Taco, Loaded Grillers (both cheesy potato and beefy nacho), Mini Skillet Bowl and Chips and Dips. This is a travesty. This is an American horror story. This is one of the worst things to happen in 2020. This is what broke me this year. I could take the pandemic, economic collapse, waves of police brutality, murder hornets, Joe Exotic existing, and everything else, but this is unacceptable. This is a step too far. Taco Bell cannot and will not remove its most prominent items for no reason, food supply shortages be damned.
These items are a part of what makes Taco Bell so special in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans. What is America’s preeminent “Mexican” fast-food chain without the Mexican Pizza? The Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes? The Quesarito? The answer is clear. It is nothing. These items and many like them significantly enhance the lives of many Americans. Conglomerates like TB, and its parent Yum Foods Brand, cannot play with the lives of citizens like this. There must be accountability! People grow attached to the weird mixtures of meat, cheese, beans, and tortilla-like substances that the Bell churns out. They can’t just remove one mixture of these ingredients and replace it with another. This is ridiculous! This is un-American! Taco Bell stands for something. Greasy crap that never changes! If it changes, that removes the entire purpose.
Let’s get specific about what items I’ll miss. The biggest by far is the Mexican Pizza. The Mexican Pizza is a gem. You can’t just remove the Mexican Pizza without consequences. The Mexican Pizza is a mainstay of Indian-American culture. Let me explain. Without it, what will I eat? The Bean Burrito? As if. The Mexican Pizza is the perfect mixture of tomatoes, cheese, beans, and weird tostada shells. It is perfect, with or without meat. It is perfect, with or without hot sauce. Are the Cinnabons perfect? No. Is the Bean Burrito perfect? No. Only the Mexican Pizza is wildly customizable, enjoyable no matter what you add or remove, and makes the eater feel fancy. For an Indian-American child growing up hours away from the nearest city, items like the Mexican Pizza made me feel like I belonged to American culture. That I too can eat weird greasy slop at a mainstream chain. That I too can have fun with my friends when eating fast food. That I could eat non-meat options without it being a big deal, and without sacrificing food “quality.” Taco Bell’s weird options like the aforementioned Mexican Pizza are a representation of this feeling of belonging. And to strip them away is to strip away a part of myself, a part of my childhood, a part of my acclimation, acceptance, and belonging in America. And yes I did make that sentence as janky as possible.
To continue, The Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes have always been a must-have. Why, you might ask? Good question! The Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes combine undercooked tater tots, sour cream, and plasticky queso sauce. They are delicious. They are cheap. They are bite-size. And they were mine. A part of my Taco Bell ritual. A part of my order. And now they too are gone. And now they too have succumbed to market economics, to potato shortages, to supply chain difficulties and the vagrancies of a high turnover menu. And with the departure of these simple potatoes, so too has a part of me been lost. Just another thing lost to 2020.
Moving on, how dare Taco Bell remove the Quesarito from its menu! Even for a soulless profit-maximizing corporation, this is a step too far. Unlike the Mexican Pizza, which is difficult to make and requires TB to source a multitude of ingredients, and the Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes, which are a casualty of the national potato supply chain difficulties, there is no reason for the removal of the Quesarito. Its ingredients are widely available, and it is not difficult to make whatsoever. Unless TB now thinks that putting beans and cheese in a tortilla is difficult to make, in which case I retract my outrage. Anyways, this has not been a kind year to any of us for a number of reasons, but Taco Bell’s succumbing to the forces destroying much of American life hurts a little more personally than a number of the (actual) tragedies that have occurred throughout this year. And I know it’s stupid, but I will mourn the loss of these menu items as just another part of Americana lost.