The Choco Taco is muerto. May it rest in peace. We didn’t deserve it.
Once upon a time, we were a nation of visionaries and dreamers, a people who blasted beyond boundaries and invited those of every tribe and tongue to enter the American rocketship and use their talents to conquer the universe with us. Together, we carved interstates through mountains, built skyscrapers, and slipped the surly bonds of earth. There was no place we couldn’t go, no limit we couldn’t surpass, and most of all, nothing we couldn’t turn into dessert.
The Choco Taco was the example par excellence of Melting Pot America’s commercialized culinary hubris. In 1983, Good Humor debuted its recently departed delicacy. And while Mexican cuisine may loom large in American food culture today, it’s important to remember this was not the case at the time.
In 1983, Taco Bell had a mere 1,600 locations nationwide, compared to over 7,600 today. Most Americans had never heard of “Taco Tuesday,” never seen an avocado, and couldn’t tell their barbacoa from their carnitas. And yet, despite our limited familiarity with the referent, Good Humor had the audacity to fill their ice cream trucks with a parody confection.
“You know that food you barely remember from the one time your grandmother took you to a Chi-Chis in Trenton,” Good Humor said to us. “Here’s a joke ice cream version of that. We bet you’ll eat it.”
And eat it, we did. For countless ’80s babies, for those of us raised on boiled meatloaf, wet-paper-flavored apples, and the other haute cuisine of the day, we embraced the Choco Taco before we embraced actual tacos. Gripping the waffle shell in our summer-sweat-covered hands, we eagerly consumed a delicacy we didn’t fully comprehend. And when we did, an inclusive curiosity sparked within us.
To the white kids of Reagan’s America, the Choco Taco declared, “There’s a world of real tacos out there. Go discover it. Go embrace the people who gave it to you! Accept those whose culinary culture offered you something far more delicious than baloney and ketchup sandwiches! Befriend them!”
Likewise, for the non-white kids of America, the Choco Taco declared, “You belong. You matter. Don’t be offended that we yoinked your culture and turned it into diabetes snacks. That’s an initiation ritual here. That’s how Business America shows you that we (sort of) accept you (kind of).”
But then we won the Cold War, we became complacent, and we lost the desire to expand our horizons. By repeatedly giving the Weird Al treatment to exotic new delicacies, we could have conquered xenophobia and added glorious new flavors and textures to the American melting pot. We could have invented the Banana Split Baozi or the Lotta Chocolatty Chakalaka. Instead, we got sloppy and lazy.
We lost the desire to better ourselves, to discover how we might use technology to slather mid-tier ice cream upon previously unslatherable surfaces. We settled for artless tech, declaring, “Hey, you’ve heard of ice cream, but have you ever heard of smaller ice cream?” So we freeze-dried it and called it Dippin’ Dots. We cut it into chocolate-covered microcubes and called it Dibs. We made ice cream stale. We made it boring. And we called it progress.
Likewise, as Marxism wormed its way through our elite institutions and corrupted our collective mind, we paralyzed ourselves by demonizing culinary curiosity with our constant shrieks about “cultural appropriation.”
When people close down burrito food trucks because the owners are insufficiently Latinx, we have ceased to be a people capable of expanding the frontiers of Frozen Dairyland. When white Americans aren’t allowed to embrace and borrow the sweetest bits of other ethnicities, the reach of those ethnicities is hindered, and you get what we have now: a thousand artisanal creameries selling $25 kale and rose hip sundaes to bitter thirty-somethings, but not a single ice cream truck selling FroYo Falafels to curious 5-year-olds.
Rest in peace, Choco Taco. You taught us wonder and acceptance when you gave us nuts and chocolate instead of tomatoes and cheese, but we abandoned you. You should have lived a thousand years as the abuelo to a United Nations of modestly delicious novelty ice cream offshoots. Instead, you’ll be buried alone because we’ll be too busy canceling Otterpops for normalizing transphobia.