If I tell you that this all began quite innocently, you will probably not believe me. If I try to convince you that I do not spend my life eating rot gut fast food and that I do, in fact, cook wholesome meals which are mostly vegetarian, and filled with organic whole grains and plants watered with unicorn sneezes, you will most likely call bullshit on me, and that is your prerogative. But it’s true, I swear.
And that is why it was highly unusual that a couple weeks ago I found myself unexpectedly in the Taco Bell drive-thru. I feel guilty already, but let me explain.
Let me start with the dream I had the other night first. I had a dream that I was eating the most delightful meal – it contained delectable pizza and magnificent tacos and all amounts of fried chicken and syrupy waffles and I think there was also a bag of Doritos, and as I dreamt I was eating, I could actually taste all of this heavenly junk food, and it was better than a sex dream. I promise you. Except in the dream there was a kind of tragic Greek chorus of faceless bystanders watching me eat my junk food and they were shouting at me that everything I was eating contained gluten and dairy and that it was all poison.
And this, people, this pretty much encapsulates my entire relationship with…okay, everything. I wage constant war with myself between my good side and my dark side, the wholesome and the sordid, the ballet flats and the motorcycle boots, and yeah, the organic, pui lentil, coconut, wheat-free grain bowl and Taco Fucking Bell.
But let me at least try to explain how I ended up in the Taco Bell drive-thru.
I wasn’t driving. My family was going on a little road trip and one of my not all that guilty pleasures is that on road trips I like to eat tacos and sometimes I eat them for breakfast. But because I am rigid and disciplined, I order bean tacos with lettuce and tomato only, thus creating what I believe to be a virtuous vegan meal. Add a light dusting of Ho Shu Wu and Ashwaganda on top and I am practically Gwyneth Paltrow over here.
This particular morning, we found ourselves looking at the brightly lit menu board and suffering from a bad case of paralysis of choice. There were so many things! All of them were toxic. Most of them were also incredibly seductive. None of us could fully decide what to get. We noticed there was a new item! The Quesalupa! What was this? Did it have gluten?
Yup, I asked. I did that. I asked the lady at the Taco Bell drive-thru if the Quesalupa had gluten in it.
“I don’t know. It has cheese.”
“Okay so is the shell corn or flour?” I formally inquired.
The lady sighed audibly. I heard this clearly. I imagined her putting her hand over her receiver and telling her coworkers in a stage whisper that they better get ready because there were some white-assed, white fucking hipster white people from the suburbs driving an SUV suffering from a severe case of First World White People Problems, listening to some Indie surf rock on Apple Radio, wearing Wayfarers and Vans and that next they were probably going to demand free-range eggs from happy chickens who’d received Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Reiki treatments.
“I don’t know, Baby. IT’S FRIED,” the lady said.
And this was easily in my top ten greatest comedic moments of my life and put me right in my place, so I ordered my vegan tacos for breakfast and went on with my bad self for the rest of my road trip.
However. A seed had been planted. And the seed grew Quesalupas in my brain and even though I didn’t know what a Quesalupa even was, I really wanted one. Like I needed one to complete my life. But still raged my internal battle.
A Quesalupa is not even a thing, for god’s sakes. A chalupa is a thing (though not in its Taco Bell incarnation). A quesadilla is a thing. They are not to be morphed, per se, except that Taco Hell is like The Island of Dr. Moreau of Gringo Mexican food. I can forgive them for this, though, because they need to constantly come up with creative names for the exact same combination of the exact same five or six ingredients. They don’t have a lot to work with here – beans, meat, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream. There aren’t really infinite permutations of these things. Like for real, there is only so much you can do with such a limited set and the flavors aren’t even all that exciting.
You know what IS exciting, though? The names of the dishes. They sound WAY more exotic to non-hispanic folk than they actually are, especially when human-centipeded together like a Spanish game of Scrabble on LSD. Which, now that I’m thinking about it, might actually be how Taco Bell comes up with its new products. Anyone want a quesanachotacoladapusadilla? Yum.
Dream job: Taco Bell product developer. You know why? I am positive that they get a bunch of stoners together, get everyone high and see what they come up with. In fact, if someone told me right now that Seth Rogen was the CEO of Taco Bell, I wouldn’t even bat an eyelash. There ya go, I’d say. How might I get in on this action too?
So a week later, I still hadn’t figured out what a quesalupa was, but I still wanted one. At this point, I think it was just the principle. Just to say I did it. Like how adventurers climb mountains. You scaled Denali? Dude. I ate a quesalupa. And, Baby, it was FRIED.
“I think quesalupa translates to Female Cheese Wolf,” I decided.
But my husband, who speaks actual Spanish corrected me. Lobo is the word for wolf in Spanish. Lupo is the word for wolf in Italian. Jesus, Woman, get your romance languages straight! What the hell? And really I should have known this because remember Los Lobos? It’s not like La Bamba wasn’t the greatest movie I ever saw EVER in high school, igniting a lifelong passion for rock star bio-pics!
So as awesome as Female Cheese Wolf would’ve been, I had to give it up. Gretchen, stop trying to make Female Cheese Wolf happen! It’s not going to happen!
So I said the word quesalupa out loud and guess what? CASE OF LUPUS.
“Umm hi, I’d like to order three crunchy bean tacos and a CASE OF LUPUS.”
“I’ll take a side of sour cream, some Fire sauce, a large Diet Pepsi and AN AUTOIMMUNE CONNECTIVE TISSUE DISORDER, please.”
“Hey, would you mind throwing in an order of those cinnamon thingies along with my positive ANA, low platelet count and severe joint pain? You’re amazing. Thank you!”
(Now before you get your teeny lacy panties all jammed up in your butt crack over this, fellow lupus suffers, I AM ONE OF YOU. I have Lupus. I like to laugh about it. If you don’t, well, I can’t help you.)
Long story short, I got myself some quesalupas. I got the bean version and I’ll tell you why. Fast food meat is somewhat alarming to me. The Taco Bell menu seems hell bent on making a point of calling their meat “premium beef” at every opportunity, and to me, this feels like protesting too much. Like, why do they need to say that so emphatically? And really, premium is just a meaningless bullshit marketing word to make stuff sound fancier than it is anyway.
I mean, the word “premium beef” could technically be code for Soylent Green or it could mean 60 percent beef and 40 percent ground earthworms for all I know. In the interest of not getting sued by Taco Bell, I’m sure there is no human flesh or worms in its beef and I’m sure it’s fabulous quality meat, but I’m still not eating it. Suffice to say, I’m positive that the meat in a Taco Bell quesalupa does not come from grass fed Wagyu calves who are massaged with sake while someone recites Basho’s haiku to them, so I’ll stick with beans. Are we cool on this? Great.
Here is what a quesalupa is: it is a quesadilla made with extremely mild pepper jack cheese (I feel like the cheese in question may be of the WIZ variety) folded into the shape of a taco and filled with taco stuff (hence the same 5 ingredients in all Taco Bell dishes). Except the quesadilla “shell” aspect of the product appears to be deep fried.
It looks kinda like a flat puffy taco, and kinda like a fry bread taco, both of which are actual things in the southwest. But it doesn’t really taste like them.
It was by no means disgusting or inedible. It was sort of good, though I am loathe to admit this. There are certain circumstances which we cannot discuss here where I would probably be down with eating this thing, but overall it was underwhelming. It did not live up to the hype I created in my own mind. It was also greasy. This is the kind of thing that is highly likely to give you diarrhea, although miraculously it did not give me diarrhea, and that is really saying something. TMI? Perhaps. But important information nonetheless.
To answer my initial question – the shell is flour or some semblance of gluten thereof. It is indeed very fried.
I somehow found myself passionately consuming this thing standing at my kitchen counter. The quesalupa and I were having a moment. I was practically talking dirty to it. Like sour cream dripping all over my chin, panting, moaning, sighing all of that. But then I got ahold of myself.
“What the hell has gotten into you?! You aren’t that kind of girl! Cut this out. You should be drinking cold pressed green juice! Do you know how much cholesterol is in this? STOP IT!” said my good, wholesome self. “It’s not even really that good! It’s just kind of okay.”
So, after I ate 3/4s of it, I suffered from severe low self-esteem and threw the rest away. Next year on Yom Kippur I will atone for having eaten a quesalupa. Eating a quesalupa made me want to say Hail Marys and go on a three day juice cleanse. It made me want to go to yoga, not to burn calories, but to burn off the bad karma I accrued from eating this instead of a spoonful of almond butter sprinkled with pomegranate arils. The quesalupa is the opposite of Gwyneth Paltrow. It is profane. It is shameless. But ultimately it’s also a tease. It’s like the girl you were so hot for that ended up being a lame lay once you finally got her in bed.
The verdict? Meh. Skip it in favor of dipping some Cool Ranch Doritos in sour cream if you want a cheap thrill.