“Mexican food is great but it’s essentially all the same ingredients…tortilla with cheese, meat or vegetables. Look, it’s all the same!”
The above is an old Jim Gaffigan bit, and like all good comedy, the humor lies in its truth.
If all Mexican food is the same, though, then Taco Bell—an assembly line gloop-producer of cheap late-night stoner fare — must be the worst offender, right?
But look at the Taco Bell canon of buzzwords:
With adjectives like those, there’s no way their homologated beef product could taste the same.
Well, we set out to discover the answer to that question.
For our experiment The Black Sheep collected three self-proclaimed Taco Bell connoisseurs to take part in a blind taste test. Each blindfolded participant was served eight unaltered Taco Bell menu items purchased from this location. Then, each participant had to choose which item he or she thought they consumed from a printed list of the eight items.
Each item was cut into thirds and presented to the blindfolded participants on a plate. Each were given water as an optional palate cleanser between rounds.
As you can see from the table below, we avoided chip-based items and sweet desserts because…come on. Still, each item had a different mixture of meat, assorted topping and tortilla equivalent.
So, let’s see how they did:
Number of Total Guesses: 24
Number of Correct Answers: 6
Accuracy in Guessing: 25%
A 25% accuracy rate is…not very good.
Think about it this way: A Taco Bell virgin has a 1 in 8 chance of simply guessing a correct answer if they ate the food blindfolded and pointed at one of the options presented to them.
Or, another way: Choose a number between 1 and 8. Now have a friend guess. The odds of being able to differentiate one Taco Bell item from another is, oh, double that.
A few takeaways:
Everybody Loves the Classics.
You should be unsurprised that all three of the taste test participants correctly identified the Beef Soft Shell Taco, as much of our love of fast food stems from adolescent nostalgia. “Taco Bell lovers” have eaten hundreds of Beef Soft Shell Tacos and what, maybe a few dozen Cantina Burritos? Which one do you think your taste buds will more easily recognize?
That’s Some Good “Chicken.”
Out of the four times our participants guessed chicken, three of those guesses were for an item (the same item, mind you) that contains beef.
Quinn was the only person who was unable to submit a guess over the entire blind taste test. This guess was for the Shredded Chicken Soft Taco Fresco.
The other guess—which correctly identified chicken—was from the person who correctly identified the most items.
What is a Meximelt Anyway?
As you can see, a Meximelt is a soft shell taco turned on its side.
Sure, it’s a little different—but enough to merit being considered its own menu item? Not exactly.
And look at the data table above. All of our participants thought the Meximelt was the Beef Soft Shell Supreme. This shouldn’t be a surprise. A Meximelt is basically a beef soft shell taco with a few other things tossed in it. And as this experiment concludes, for Taco Bell a “few other things” means basically nothing in terms of taste.
To our previous point regarding chicken and one being unable to discern Taco Bell chicken from Taco Bell beef: Is it any surprise that the tomatoes present in the Meximelt intuitively had our participants think the item itself was a Fresco-variety chicken taco? When you’re blindfolded, it’s pretty hard to tell if a flour tortilla is resting on its side or not.
Hard Shell? Hardly.
Funny thing: No participant correctly identified the only hard-shelled item put in front of them during the blind taste test.
If fact, when choosing the items for the test, we hesitated to even include one item with a hard shell, thinking there would be no way anyone could get that wrong.
Yet, someone found a way. His name was Quinn and he thought it was a meatless burrito.
You Say Burrito, I Say Burra…to.
Of the six possible guesses between the Beefy Five Layer Burrito and the Chili Cheese Burrito, only Jessica properly identified one of the burritos. The other two participants guessed one for the other.
And before you get your panties in a bundle, note that the Chili Cheese Burrito doesn’t have meat, while the Beefy Five Layer Burrito does — and that the five layer burrito should have “five layers,” while the chili cheese burrito is, well, two layers. We also noted this before we served the food in a blind taste test. There was no mix-up.
How crazy is that? Two food items, nearly identical save the inclusion or exclusion of meat, are indistinguishable in a blind taste test. Remember, Taco Bell’s meat does come out of a gun.
Eat Taco Bell if you want, reader, but can we, as a society, stop pretending that Taco Bell is anything more than the Tyler Perry movie of fast food? It’s shitty, repetitive regurgitation of the same thing over and over again, impossible to tell apart and it’s only tolerable if you’re pretty stoned.