Food writer José Ralat has been crowned as the nation’s first taco editor, joining the staff of Austin-based Texas Monthly to publish taco-centric reports, reviews, and raves beginning next week. Based in Dallas, for years Ralat has been writing about tacos all across the country.
It’s almost hard to believe that there wasn’t already a taco editor on staff somewhere in America, considering how compelling the mythology is behind finding the best taco in town. After all, tacos have been adopted and adapted in cities from coast to coast by chefs from all walks of life. But it isn’t a big surprise that Ralat landed the role at Texas Monthly, a publication that has had a dedicated barbecue editor since 2013.
It also isn’t a surprise that Ralat is the hombre for the job; he’s got a book coming out next year called American Tacos: A History and Guide, and he’s blogged about tacos for years on his site, The Taco Trail. He was also the curator of the Taco Libre taco festival earlier this year.
“José is one of the foremost experts on tacos in the state and the country,” executive editor Kathy Blackwell said in an announcement. “We are thrilled to have him join our growing editorial team, and to share with our readers his wealth of knowledge about the amazing variety of foods that can be tucked into a tortilla.”
Ultimately, Ralat has his sights set on writing about more than just the food. He told Eater, “If you want my definition of a taco, it is a food reflective and representational of a time and place,” and he explained to the New York Times this week that he also plans to tell “the stories of the people who make the foods.” He even mentioned the contradiction between America’s love of tacos and some of America’s hatred of Mexican people, perhaps suggesting that tacos have the potential to build peace that transcends today’s divisive politics and rhetoric.
Anyway, despite being well qualified to become a taco spirit guide, Ralat acknowledged that his own entry into taco culture has been through his wife, who is Mexican-American; Ralat was born in Puerto Rico. “It’s not my culture, per se,” he told the Times. “I’ve just been adopted into it, in a manner of speaking, and I hope I can honor them.”