"I am an idealistic, naive, passionate, truth-seeking, spiritually motivated artist, unschooled in the science of law and finance." --Wesley Snipes

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Complicating the Burrito (with some notes on the Taco)

When I was young, we used to eat tortillas fresh off the comal (big flat cast-iron griddle used for cooking tortillas), smeared with lots of butter. This was the most common use of the soft,white, floppy bread.

The "burrito" was an item I'd heard of, but never ate at home. Flour tortillas were almost always an accompaniment to some other dish--not a "wrap." Occasionally, however, one might roll up some refried beans and/or some red chile in a tortilla, more-or-less "burrito style." This was (and is) called a "taco." However, if Mom or Gramma says "We're having tacos for dinner," she means the crispy fried kind.

The burrito stuffed with rice and vegetables and beans and meat (what Rosengarten calls a "San Franciso Style" burrito) seems to me a relatively recent innovation, and one that robs the burrito of some integrity, I think. When I lived in San Diego, I learned to eat burritos on a regular basis, but most taco stands conceived of a burrito as a showcase for a certain filling (usually a single type of meat, or a mixture such as "machaca"--meat and eggs (though this is confusing because "machaca" means something else in Mexico), or chorizo with potatoes, wrapped in a soft flour tortilla, with little else. Beans and rice were served optionally, and always on the side. I was a devoted carne asada fan. At Adalberto's on Rosecrantz (directly across the street from the now-defunct Naval Training Center, where as a youth I was employed), circa 1991, a carne asada burrito consisted of about a half pound of meat, topped with guacamole and a bit of cheese. It sold for $2.60, including tax. Pure heaven. I went back to Adalberto's in September 2001 and the burritos were exactly the same, albeit a bit more expensive ($3.40). I always had mine without the guac, however. I've never been able to stomach the avocado or its kin.

Here in Eugene, every burrito shop offers the "San Francisco" style burrito exclusively. I don't eat many burritos for this reason.

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