It was never my intention to have an illicit affair with the thing that the Jack in the Box menu calls “taco.” Yet here I am—a hoodie and sunglasses my disguise—idling in a parking lot at night. There they are—a greasy pair advertised by a sign glowing at the heart of the drive thru.
The two “tacos” entice, inviting me to participate in a gastronomical three-way.
The dish’s mushy innards, encased by melted “American” cheese and stuffed unevenly between the oily folds of something resembling a fried corn tortilla shell, suggest canned pet food. Even its odor—reminiscent of the moment when one pops a metal lid as a housecat looks on with affection—permeates any space to which Jack in the Box “tacos” travel. The odor triggers panic. If one is in a car, like I am now, this state is followed by a rush to roll every window down. The meal’s garnish, a leaf of iceberg lettuce, is wet and wilted. It epitomizes sad.
I can hardly wait.
As I unwrap my order, grease coats my fingertips. Before tearing open a package labeled “hot sauce,” I caress the tortilla.
I bite into the mess and then toss the “taco” back into the paper bag.
I tell myself that this isn’t who I am. I am married to a Mexican man. My familia Jalisciense would not only disown me but would happily take me the plaza for a public shaming, encouraging onlookers to pelt me with bags of Jack in the Box “tacos” as I weep, the grease a welcome moisturizer.
I thrust my hand back into the bag.
I raised a “taco” to my mouth and squeezed it, nudging its innards between my fingers so each bite could give equal parts Fancy Feast, decrepit tortilla, vegetable oil masquerading as cheese, boiled lettuce, and vinegar.
It was a twisted heaven.
Fearful that the stench would permeate the faux leather seats of My Dude’s tiny-but-mighty Mini, I rolled down the windows. Then, I decided to live! I rolled the windows back up. Fuck it. I spread my “tacos” across the seat so that I could bathe myself in their odor. I might later regret it, but I refuse to be shamed for my love, a love that will require an industrial strength toilet in about five hours.
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins: Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET 2017; Best Blog for Longbeachize in 2018; and Best Personality Profile for the Long Beach Post in 2020. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.