National Obituary Review

Dead Person of the Day – January 16 – Glen Bell

0 Comments 16 January 2013


Today’s DPD is a story that transcends the life of Glen Bell and tells a larger story about 2 things.

1. Why (southern) California sucks
2. Why people hate America’s influence

Glen W. Bell Jr. was born in Lynwood, Calif., on Sept. 3, 1923 and was the founder of Taco Bell.
Drive-in stands dotted San Bernardino when Mr. Bell opened his first fast food stand there in the late 1940s. One competitor, only a few miles away, was the original stand opened by two brothers with the last name of McDonald. Which leads me to point #1.

Fast food is disgusting and is now at the heart of a national epidemic of obesity. And – shockingly – two of the biggest franchises in fast food have their roots in southern California. Good god, just when I think that place can’t wreak any more havoc on our great nation.

Full disclosure – I’m a big fan of northern California. But SoCal? Have you ever been there? It feels like you’re walking through a pool of garbage juice.

Mr. Bell and the McDonald pickle sniffs were capitalizing on the emerging Southern California car culture, offering prompt service and streamlined menus of mostly standard fare like hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries and milk shakes. What is now known as ‘American food’.

But I don’t hate the player in Mr. Bell’s case…I hate the game. Glen Bell joined the Marines in 1943 and served this nation admirably. He also hate the ingenuity to fix the problem of making traditional Mexican fare more conducive to the fast food scene. The problem was that traditional tacos were made with a soft shell. When ordered, soft tacos were stuff first, grilled then stuck with a toothpick before serving. So if you wanted a half dozen you were going to wait awhile.

The solution: pre-formed fried shells that would then be stuffed. Mr. Bell asked a man who made chicken coops to fashion a frying contraption made of wire. Bam, the rest is history.

The trade publication Nation’s Restaurant News credited Mr. Bell with introducing millions of Americans to Mexican-style food. Which brings me to point # 2.

Taco Bell introduced millions of Americans to ‘traditional’ Mexican food. Yet, it was traditional. Yes, it was just the shell that was ‘Americanized’ but still. The nuances of the cuisine were split open, shat upon then packaged back to the public and dubbed Mexican food.

Take this obit and throw some mild sauce on it. Just make sure you don’t fall asleep at the drive through.

Glen W. Bell Jr., Founder of Taco Bell, Dies at 86

Published: January 18, 2010

Glen W. Bell Jr., whose idea in 1951 to sell crispy-shell tacos from the window of his hamburger stand became the foundation of Taco Bell, the restaurant chain that turned Mexican fare into fast food for millions of Americans, died at his home in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. He was 86. Continue

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