Normally, I am as snobby as they get when it comes to eating. I am, usually, all about locally grown, hand-made, organic, ethically sourced, sustainable and all that foodie bougie’ness. So what would get me to walk into a Taco Bell and order one of their most ostentatious offerings? Well Mr. Malcolm Gladwell, that’s what!
Mr. Gladwell is my favorite writer/podcaster and he hasn’t lied to me yet. I have heard, read, and re-read everything Mr. Gladwell has said in books, podcasts and interviews. I am a true fan and when he says he likes to eat Naked Chicken Chalupas at Taco Bell, I have no choice but to try it. In his amazing podcast Revisionist History, season 4, episode 8 entitled In a Metal Mood, Gladwell debates cultural appropriation in music. He uses Taco Bell to differentiate between appropriation and inspiration. He concludes that Taco Bell is not stealing the taco’s soul, it is being inspired by Mexican food and creating something completely new and distinct.
For anyone wondering what a naked chicken chalupa is, this is the definition Taco Bell has provided for this Frankenfood : “It’s a whole new way of eating fried chicken. A chalupa shell made of crispy, marinated all–white meat chicken and filled with crisp lettuce, diced tomatoes, shredded cheddar cheese, and a creamy avocado ranch sauce.”
The deep fried chicken breast is molded into the shape of a taco.The chicken is the shell, the shell is the chicken. In other words, your chicken is your carb and protein all at once; kinda like single parents are both a mother and a father to their kids. The naked refers to the fact that there is no tortilla shell or any other cover on the chicken. It is fully exposed for everyone to see; naked.
It has a simple, minimalist appearance. You almost feel sorry for the exposed and unprotected fried chicken. Shape wise, the chicken is pretty sturdy for a protein with no structural support. Taste wise, I have to agree with Mr. Gladwell, it is good. I don’t have anything negative to say about it. Damn you Gladwell !!!! (Please picture me shaking my fist in anger over my head… now).
The sauce adds the right amount of lubrication and the lettuce and tomatoes add a freshness that stops your body from going into the beginning stages of a cholesterol induced heart attack. The chicken is hot, spicy, crunchy, chickeny and very satisfying to bite into. For a deep fried item, it is surprisingly light.
To “enjoy” this concoction you must completely forget what you know about Mexican food, chalupas, or anything you have eaten before. They are all ingredients that you know, but you haven’t seen them in this compromising position before. It is like bumping into your psychologist moonlighting as a bartender at a strip club. You know her, you know strip club bartenders, you just never had to combine the info. The chicken, lettuce, tomato, cheddar, and ranch sauce are moonlighting as a naked chicken chalupa at Taco Bell (the strip club of Mexican fast food).
So I guess naked chicken chalupas are a part of my reality now. But neither Mr. Gladwell nor Taco Bell are able to remove the bougieness that is deep rooted within me. I will allow this freak concoction into my world but it will be done with free-range, organic, happy chicken meat, locally sourced lettuce, home-grown tomatoes, and the sauce will be artisanal and hand-made. That will show them!