May 172007

Exactly 20 years ago, I was knocking down $3.35 an hour at Taco Bell on Madison Boulevard (still just “20” back then). I usually ran the drive-through window, but also steamed, stuffed, or ran an inside register from time to time. Of course, everyone cleaned, except this one pathetic leech of a woman who claimed to be allergic to the dishwashing liquid. My stepbrother’s wife ran into her at another job several years later, and said that most of the time when she was talking, she was complaining.

Most of the assistant and shift managers were cool, but the store manager was a humorless, sadistic witch. I worked nights and weekends, mostly, so I rarely encountered her. Suited me fine. Nobody liked her except the leech, who curried favor by ratting the rest of us out for talking about her.

The Muzak contained such gems as “Too Much Heaven” by the Bee Gees, “Have You Never Been Mellow” by Olivia Newton-John, and “Heartbreaker” by Dionne Warwick. I haven’t eaten inside there in at least 15 years, but I sure hope there’s better music now.

After three months, one of the assistant managers opened a frozen yogurt shop and asked me to work for her, so I did–and thus ended my franchise fast food career. I enjoyed the yogurt shop much more. We closed at 9, for one. We didn’t fry anything, so the dishes were a lot easier, for another.

I suspect fast food jobs haven’t changed much, but Taco Bell’s food certainly has. Today, Taco Bell is actually one of the easier fast food places to get a semi-healthy meal and still get full. But when I worked at Taco Bell:

  • The beans were cooked and puréed onsite, and were 5% lard by weight.
  • The ground beef was 5% MSG by weight.
  • The chips and taco shells were fried in pure coconut oil.
  • There was more than twice the amount of cheese on a taco that there is today.

Also, the lettuce, tomatoes, and onions were shredded, diced, and chopped onsite from whole vegetables; there was a spicy green sauce available for burritos, instead of just the red sauce they have today; and the Enchirito had a yellow corn tortilla instead of a white flour tortilla.

It’s not in your head: Taco Bell used to taste much, much better.

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  5 Responses to “Running for the border in 1987”

  1. The Taco Smell is one of those places I can take in small doses. We used to live on that stuff in college, but I eat there maybe once every 3 months or so now. I have to be in the mood to punish my gut. 🙂

  2. TACO HELL is what we all called it back in the day.

    I also remember 39¢ tacos too. You could walk in with like $2 and get a huge meal.

    I’m a really big cheese person and the chees you get on a taco IS pityful. I always have to order a nacho sauce to make up for the lack of cheese.

  3. I still crave it sometimes, but I didn’t eat there for a while after I worked there.

    I miss Del Taco. There was one in Oxford across the highway from where I went to school. Taco Bell, even at its much-worse-for-you height when I worked there, was markedly inferior.

  4. […] it up with more upscale menu items.  This is just the cycle coming back around.  Do you know that when I worked there, there were three different complex dinners that contained items not available elsewhere on the […]

  5. Mmmmm…. the enchirito was my favorite until they changed it. When I was pregnant with my daughter I craved Taco Bell 24/7. Ate it at least 3 times a week, at the same one where you worked, since it was so close to Intergraph. I ate so much of it over the course of those 9 months that I got incredibly sick of it and haven’t had it since. My daughter is 15 years old.

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