When there are no more ingredients to make seco de carne stew or caldo de albóndigas, when my father only wants fries with too much salt, we go to places with gringo names: Wendy’s, Burger King, McDonald’s. When I’m a teenager I ask my parents why they’ve never taken me to Taco Bell. My mother says guacala, a three-syllabled word that renders the disgust of ewww in Spanish. We don’t eat there, if we want tacos we know where to get them, my father says. This we excludes me, although I don’t know it yet.
Cheesy gordita crunch, spicy chicken burrito, crunchy hard tacos. I know I’ll eat them one day, alone, or maybe with friends while I pretend it’s not my first time. But we leave the country, to a place where there’s only a McDonald’s more than an hour away and an employee with a pad takes your order so you don’t have to stand in line. During the time that I’m away, I eat sushi rolls lit on fire, cow stomach, tripita mishqui, cangrejo encocado, ceviche de concha, seco de chivo, llapingacho, and all of my mother’s cooking. The words taco and bell aren’t uttered in a sentence.
In my early twenties, when I move back to the land of greasy fast food and get a car, I enter a corner Taco Bell and spend too much time looking at the menu. I settle on a crunchwrap supreme, an almost hexagon in my hand that I bite into. There is no guacala or ewww, but I do add some more spicy sauce. A delight of cheap cheese intertwined with meat. I devour it too quickly. When I get a new job, a Taco Bell is just a minute away. When I forget my lunch on the kitchen counter or feel too lazy to cook, I go through the drive-thru before eight a.m. and always decide on: a fiesta potato breakfast burrito, hash browns, a spicy tostada, and a crunchwrap supreme. Breakfast and lunch. It’s not a guilty pleasure, just a pleasure. When I tell my parents it’s like all other fast food, the thrill of something ready and tasty, they shrug. Mom and Dad never ask to try, and I’ve never taken a quesarito home that they can savor. I eat alone—in my car, kitchen table or in my cubicle—and always end up staining my shirt.