Ode to Mr. Bell

Glen Bell Jr., founder of Taco Bell, died yesterday. I thought it appropriate to re-run this post from 2005.

When I first left home for college, I ended up living in student housing directly next to a Taco Bell. My residence was on the third floor, and early every morning when they started cooking for the day, the smell of simmering beef and refried beans would waft through my open window. More often than not, I would wake up with a craving for burritos.

Keep in mind that Taco Bell wasn’t the same in those days as it is today. There were no dining rooms, but rather an open brick arched area to cover you while you ordered, an outdoor round fire pit complete with gas flames and a bit of outdoor seating. You stood under the arches and made your order from a small selection of mostly 29 cent items. Tacos were bent and deep-fried on premises. The “savory beef” mixture was cooked fresh each day and was actually pretty good. When you looked in the back, you could see the beans being made every morning in big troughs. As I recall, employees used primitive hand blenders that looked like commercial drills to mash the beans.

Lying in bed on a Sunday morning, the thoughts of most young men were far away from food, but not mine. For a college student on a very limited budget, Taco Bell was a savior. I remember they used to run specials with five-for-a-dollar burritos, tacos or tostadas. None of the fancy smancy “wild chalupa chicken chipotle whatever” that they push today. Those were simpler times, and to survive my very limited budget, I frequently ate there twice a day. My car always smelled like taco sauce from all the little packets that would fall under the seat and explode on a warm day, shooting hot sauce onto my bare legs.

It’s not the same now of course. At that age, love is fickle, and I eventually moved on. An authentic taqueria opened a block away, and I immediately fell in love with their taquitos smothered in good guacamole. These days, I don’t think anything at Taco Bell is made on premises; I’ve heard the meat is delivered in pre-cooked bricks. That doesn’t matter though. I will always have a soft spot in my heart when I think back to the smell of those simmering beans, coming through my window on a warm morning. I’ll always have a weakness for their plain bean burritos, and I will always have the leftover smell of hot sauce lingering in my car.

Thank you Mr. Bell

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. Susan says

    people are always teasing me about loving Taco Bell because I’m such a food snob. It was my first job though! Pay and cheap eats all in one.
    but its not something I compare to a tacqueria. :) carnitas rule.

  2. PDXFoodDude says

    I always get the craving if I’ve had too much to drink. When I was working on the Vault Martini Bar review I went through six burritos. (Even though I’m a total wine snob I don’t normally drink when I am reviewing as I find good wine can make average food taste pretty good. When reviewing a bar though.. well, when in Rome… )

  3. wine&dine says

    When I was in high school this was I thought………all the food groups were covered. Burrito Supreme!
    What more could you ask for!!

    Have been back to that place it 20 years but have very fond memories.

  4. ms says

    Yup, loved this place in high school for its cheapness. And, I’d never eaten at an authentic taqueria at that age (or eaten much Mexican food beyond the standard stale taco shells at home), so the concept of Mexican food was exciting.

    In college, we had a Taco Bell outpost on campus, and I saw their guac one day – it came out of a squeezable dispenser that looked sort of like a Comet can (the abrasive cleaner). Ick – I knew it wasn’t fresh-made but this really emphasized it. I haven’t really eaten it since those drunken nights in college, except for maybe 1x on a road trip when I just needed a quick drive-thru snack.

  5. ComfortFoodie says

    Living in San Diego during the 60’s – 70’s I craved the ” green combination burrito ” ( meat and beans with green chili sauce ) from Taco Bell. And as a teenager with sky-high metabolism, I could inhale a half dozen of their regular tacos no sweat!
    I’m not sure when it was, but the ( downhill ) turning point for Taco Bell was probably when Pepsi took over.

    • Food Dude says

      Those were my weakness too. I’d have 2 of those for lunch, and six-eight tacos at night. Full day’s meals for $2

      Truth be known, I um, had one yesterday.

    • Cuisine Bonne Femme says

      I don’t make a “run for the border” often, but when I do it has generally been the same thing for the past 20+ years: a bean burrito w/ cheese and 2 Taco Supremes. I’m a Taco Bell purist I suppose. Also, cheap.

  6. Mike says

    It’s sad to see how TB has gone the way of all other franchises. When I was in college a buddy of mine who had worked at several fast food joints in high school would only eat at one after the experience – TB – because all of the ingredients were fresh and prepped daily. I went there a few years ago figuring at least the basics would still be good – it was kind of gross.

  7. livetoeat says

    My ex-husband is 1/2 German and 1/2 Mexican. We always found it ironic that one of his relatives on the German side of the family started Taco Bell. I wonder if my kids will be in Glen Bell’s will? nah

  8. says

    I had a roommate in college who ate there at least 2x a day, often more. When it came time to move back across country, he wrote the Taco Bell company for a map of all the Taco Bells along his route for planning purposes. They didn’t provide the map for security reasons, but they did send him a bunch of coupons and other fun stuff. Pretty cool, I thought.

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