The evolution of the taco - Joel Hall

I cannot recall a time in my life in which America's economy has been so stressed and times have been so tough. Throughout the financial hardships, I have tried to hold on to the belief that America's creativity and ingenuity will pull us through this recession, but occasionally, I have had my doubts.

I recently discovered an item in the grocery store that made me believe in America again: Old El Paso Stand 'n Stuff Taco Shells.

Now, don't get me wrong, many things have happened in the past year to give the American people a reason to be inspired.

Barack Obama's rise to the presidency, as well as Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin's attempts at executive power, convinced the world, young and old, that, perhaps, America's ever-present glass ceiling is starting to crack a little.

We discovered that the Large Hadron Collider, the massive particle accelerator straddling the Swiss-French border, will not destroy the world. It didn't really work either, but more importantly, we learned that it won't create an artificial black hole and doom the Earth and all its inhabitants.

For the first time ever, robot probes visited the North Pole - of Mars. While we did not discover life, the large concentrations of ice and water convinced scientists that the dead planet may have once teemed with life.

We've discovered new ways to detect Down Syndrome, new genetic indicators for Alzheimer's Disease, and even invented a projector that fits into your pocket. To me, the Stand 'n Stuff taco is equally a source of inspiration.

Oftentimes, the answers to life's problems are right in front of our face. Many times in the grocery store, I am confronted with the conundrum of buying tacos.

On one hand, I love the taste of tacos. The grilled meat, the grated cheese, the fresh tomatoes, and crisp lettuce all make my mouth water.

Whenever I get ready to buy a box of taco shells, however, I am always reminded that the flimsy, fragile food conveyance known as the taco shell will more than likely crack, leaving my dreams of seared beef and fresh produce laying on the kitchen floor.

When I rounded the bread aisle the other day, my eyes couldn't believe what they were seeing: Taco shells with a flat bottom.

It seemed so simple, but in all the centuries tacos have existed, no one has figured out how to improve their structural integrity. In fact, we gave up by inventing the soft taco.

The genius who designed the Stand 'n Stuff taco was really able to see the trees through the forest. The smartly-designed taco shell eliminates several problems.

Once bitten, the taco doesn't crack and become an improvised explosive device of greasy meats and cheeses. The taco shell is also able to hold the amount of food it was intended to hold, not the meager portion of food that fits into the last-generation taco. It eliminates the need for devices like the "Taco Stand Up," and at the same time, minimizes the threat of TNS (taco neck syndrome).

This one, minor adjustment to the taco shell has encouraged me to buy tacos once again. If one man can take the taco and make it stand straight, imagine all the wonderful things Americans can do, if we just put our minds to it.

Perhaps the Stand 'n Stuff taco won't save the world or turn around America's economy, but it is proof enough to me that America has the imagination to be the successful economic powerhouse it was, not too long ago.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.