Mexican Food Principle

Mexican Food is great, but it can teach us lessons far beyond gastrointestinal delight. I’m talking about the Mexican Food Principle.

Mexican food’s great, but it’s essentially all the same ingredients, so there’s a way you’d have to deal with all these stupid questions. ‘What is nachos?‘ ‘Nachos? It’s a tortilla with cheese, meat, and vegetables.’ ‘Oh, well then what is a burrito?‘ ‘A tortilla with cheese, meat, and vegetables.’ ‘Well then what is a tostada?‘ A tortilla with cheese, meat, and vegetables.” -Jim Gaffigan

When CBS News reporter, Amanda Schupak, was describing Google’s new modular phone she said, “It sounds like a taco truck. But instead of picking a filling, sauce and side, your choices are a camera, a speaker and an extra battery.”

This is a metaphor we can all understand. There are basic building blocks to make something ‘delicious’. In the kitchen, it’s cheese, meat, and vegetables. In a smartphone it’s a touchscreen, WiFi, and bluetooth. Sometimes you want more or less of one or the other, but it’s never going to be bad. That’s the Mexican Food Principle.

Mexican Food Principle

Mexican food is great, but it is all the same, it’s almost a conspiracy. It’s almost like they had a meeting 200 years ago in Mexico City and one guy stood up and he was like, ‘Hey, the reason I got everyone here is pretty simple, I figured we could rename this one entree seven times and sell it to the North Americans. The French said it would be a good idea.” -Jim Gaffigan

This is not a conspiracy, it’s standardization. Peter Drucker said the greatest invention of the twentieth century was container shipping. Containers allowed ships, ports, and equipment to move easier than the random assortment of crates and boxes that preceded it. But the Mexican Food Principle isn’t just for standardization, it can also be used to create new outputs from the same inputs.

Taco Bell is for Closers

Taco Bell is for Closers

SmartBrief on Social Media editor, Jesse Stanchak first coined the term in May of 2013 when referring to the “Mexican Food Principle” of repurposing content. “It’s pretty simple: Mexican food takes the same core ingredients, mixes them up and packages them in different ways. You can do the same thing with your content. If you do a good job remixing and reusing your content, your audience won’t see it as leftovers.”

Forbes’ contributor, Nadia Arumugam, calls the Mexican Food Principle of product development, “Breeding“, which, “Has been seriously neglected in previous brainstorming sessions for new product development.” James Altucher calls this process of coming up with new ideas, “Idea Sex“.

Whether you’re trying to create a new breakfast menu item by using a waffle as a tortilla or a doughnut as a bun, you’re using the Mexican Food Principle.

Freestyle – A Country Musical

This jukebox musical is on Spotify. I’ve weaved a story out of the following country songs. It’s something I do for fun. Previously I’ve done it with pop/rock songs, but this is my my first attempt at country (by request).

Listen to Freestyle on Spotify

[Act I]

1. Freestyle by Lady Antebellum – Thursday night, Charles, Pete and Kelley are rolling down a river road in a Chevy van listening to their favorite songs from Fleetwood Mac and Macklemore.

2. Down This Road by Cam – Unbeknownst to them, Hillary passes the boys as she is driving to her childhood home. She lives in the city now, but has come home for a long weekend to visit her parents.

As night falls on the town, one by one the lights go out. Just before Hillary turns her light off we see her pour an engagement ring out of a white paper envelope and look at it through the light.

3. Drinking Class by Lee Brice – A rooster crows. Charles gets up for work on Friday while looking forward to going out to drink after work with some friends. To him, every night is “Friday”.

As Charles opens his lunch pail and begins eating his lunch, he secretly opens a small paper notebook full of plans and diagrams for opening up his own business, but quickly puts it away when someone walks by.

4. Everything to You by Caitlyn Smith – Hillary is eating dinner with her father and she notices how gray his hair has become and she wants to tell him about the ring, but instead sings her father a song.

She gets a phone call from “Joe”, but she declines the call.

5. Country Bumpkin by Cal Smith – Her father detects that something might be wrong so he tells her a story about how he met her mother and what she said to him on her death bed. He wanted to know that they had a good life.

6. Neon Light by Blake Shelton – When Hillary finally listens to the voicemail, she hears Joe singing about how he misses her. He tells her he was looking for a sign and he’s finally found one, in the window of a bar.

[Act II]

7. Medicine by Shakira, Blake Shelton – Hillary tells her dad she’s going out for the night and she heads to bar for “medicine”. At the same time, Joe is sitting at a bar back in the city.

At the bar she runs into Charles and before he can hide his notes, Hillary asks him about them. He quickly hides them before recognizing her and embracing her with a big hug. They begin to talk about old times.

8. When the Right One Comes Along by Striking Matches – Hillary explains to Charles that she’s only home for the weekend to visit her dad, but the real reason is that she’s running away from her boyfriend, Joe, who asked her to marry her.

9. Mess is Mine by Vance Joy – Charles tells her that he will take her problems from her for the night and that her “mess” is his. After the song, Charles asks Hillary to sing karaoke with him for fun.

10. Momma Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys by TR Dallas – Charles chooses “Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” and eventually the whole bar joins in with them as they sing together.

11. Dirt by Florida Georgia Line – Charles asks Hillary if she’d like to take a walk and as he’s walking he kicks the dirt and starts telling Hillary about a time when he almost got married, but didn’t.

12. Remind Me by Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood – Hillary asks Charlie if he was talking about her. She reminds him that they used to date and it was actually him who took her to the airport when she first left town.

Charlie asks her to remind him. She said, “We didn’t sleep. I remember I’d wake up in one of your old t-shirts. You’d kiss my neck. I can remember that, but I want you to remind me.”

13. Drunk Americans by Toby Keith – Instead of kissing her, Charlie says their all just “Drunk Americans” and that, “We just came here to drink.” He walks back into the bar and begins singing with all of the people in the bar.


14. Can’t Get Away from a Good Time by Logan Mize – Saturday afternoon Charles is working on his truck when his friend, Pete, stops by on his way to the gas station. He tells Pete how he “can’t get away from a good time.”

15. Feelin’ It by Scotty McCreery – Pete drops off Charles and calls up his girlfriend, Kelley to say he’s feelin’ like going out to the beach this afternoon. She’s friends with Hillary and invites her to the beach.

Pete texts Charles to meet him there that night for beer and a bonfire. Charles responds “I can’t get away from a good time,” and we see him incorporating his new business online before grabbing his keys.

16. Make You Miss Me by Sam Hunt – Hillary calls Joe and tells him she wants to break up. He says he will make her miss him and that she’ll miss sleeping in his t-shirt. She puts down the phone and cries into her hands.

When she pulls her hands down she sees her bikini laying on the bed.

17. Sunshine & Whiskey by Frankie Ballard – Pete sings to his girlfriend on the beach, reminiscing about the good times they had cruising around in his Chevy. Charles arrives and sees Hillary coming out of the water.

18. Cruise – Remix by Florida Georgia Line, Nelly – Charlie asks Hillary if she’d like to take a ride in his Chevy and they go for a cruise. Charlie tells her he doesn’t want to be a blue collar worker anymore.

19. Where Your Road Leads by Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood – Hillary thanks him for being there for her last night and tells him she’s broken up with her boyfriend. She said she would help him with his dreams if he would love her.

20. Love You Like That by Canaan Smith – Charles tells Hillary that he can love her the way she wants him to and they ride off into the country sunset in his Chevy. As the taillights grow dim, the music fades into the night.

1 Hour, 12 Min

If you liked this, you might also like this rock musicals:


The Digital Arrow of Time

In the library scene from H.G. Well’s The Time Machine where the time traveling man from the past finds books that have fallen apart amid a new ‘CD’-looking object that plays after he spins it on a big open plate thing. He asks about their books, only to learn they have been left to decay and turn to dust. He’s then taken to an ancient museum, where “talking rings” tell of their history.

HG Wells Time Machine Talking Rings

In H.G. Well’s future, books have been converted to talking rings, which are like CDs or DVDs that are more like metal rings that play when spun on a special table-top surface. But it’s not just books that need converted to new platforms, The White Album Problem also applies to digital cities.

In this Atlantic piece on “What happens when digital cities are abandoned?“, Laura Hall writes, “Ownership…must be continually renewed, the way a garden must be continually tended, lest nature overtake its carefully-arranged borders.”

The way she talks about revisiting her Multi-User Dungeon (MUD) reminded me of what it’s like to go back into the empty Minecraft server. There it sits, a world past occupied, ready to run for as long as it’s maintained. But what happens when it’s turned off the way was turned off?

Laura mentions Geocities, where I too had an address in Athens at “8802”. I still remember it because it was the first time a virtual place was categorized like a physical place and so it seemed like it wasn’t just online, but was a real destination. A destination that got shut down by Yahoo! in 2009.

“The great paradox about these digital communities is that they’re easily kept around forever, and they are even more easily deleted utterly,” said Jason Scott, an Internet advocate and archivist who launched a digital preservation team in 2009. “These communities had lasting historical and societal value.”

Laura pines, “It’s up to our future selves, or those who live beyond us, to make sense of what’s being saved today: to curate the data and form the stories around it that will give it meaning.” In H.G. Wells story that was with talking rings.

Scott said, “This is not a new self-awareness. You’re just keeping it on a hard drive instead of the old family bible. Your diary is now on a server, instead of underneath your room, where your parents throw it out.” I couldn’t agree more.