Why Burritos Are Ruining Mexican Food in America
To me, there is no food item more downright disrespectful to its origins than the burrito. Everything that makes food amazing is lost on this twilight zone wrapped in a flour tortilla.
Photo via Flickr user Ryan Hyde
To me, there is no food item more downright disrespectful to its origins than the burrito. Flavors, aromas, textures, juices, and vibrant colors; everything that makes food amazing is lost on this twilight zone wrapped in a flour tortilla.
To be clear, the burrito—or at least what most of the world now considers a burrito—is entirely American. Even the beloved Mission-style burrito is far removed from anything out of Northern Mexico, the birthplace of the burrito. The original is relatively simple, but damn near perfect; a helping of braised meat (traditionally , which is beef that is air-dried and then braised to a tender, pulled pork-like state) doused with a bit of salsa and a thin layer of beans, laid atop an airy, slightly toasted flour tortilla that's crafted by the hands of an actual human being.
In this case, the tortilla isn't just some convenient carrying case for the meal, like the way it is now. It's a complementary ingredient. The mass-produced packages of tortillas that inundate every grocery store across the country—these are not them.
The tortillas that are manufactured for burritos in America are unearthly creations, closer to the consistency of bubblegum than anything resembling a flour tortilla. They aren't catered to taste; they are engineered to fit in as much garbage as physically possible without tearing.
In spite of their inauthenticity, production of processed tortillas has never been more lucrative. Tortilla production is a multi-billion dollar business in the US, second only to white bread in terms of sales of bread-type products, according to a study by the Tortilla Industry Association.
The burrito has the sex appeal of a pair of sweatpants. It says that laziness, sloppiness, and carelessness are acceptable in food presentation, so long as the patron can't see it.
You can't blame people for not wanting to bust out a tub of lard and dough every time they feel like eating a burrito. Packages of pre-made tortillas are convenient for everyone, and none more than the tortilla conglomerate.
The taco—thanks to its less-refined corn tortilla base—still has a tendency to keep it real, but all hope for the burrito is long gone. It went Hollywood and became a pop culture icon. It forgot where it came from, and transformed into the fat, phallic, Frankenstein-like monstrosity that many know and love.
Have you ever opened up your chode of a super king-sized burrito supreme? Go ahead—give it an autopsy like you're eight years old again and gaze at the culinary massacre. It's frightening. Chunks of overcooked meat are saturated in slops of sour cream and a slimy green substance that claims to be guacamole—if you paid the extra $1.50, that is. The pico de gallo tends to be flavorless, and looks like it was made a week ago. The other 80 percent is rice and beans. The giant burrito may seem enticing on the surface, but it's just an easy way for restaurants to cover up cheap ingredients worth a fraction of what they're charging. Oh well, you're just going to dump hot sauce on it anyway, right?
The burrito has the sex appeal of a pair of sweatpants. It says that laziness, sloppiness, and carelessness are acceptable in food presentation, so long as the patron can't see it. When people go out to eat, they want to experience something new and delicious—and most likely post a picture of it on Instagram. If that's the case, what purpose does the burrito serve?
The biggest consequence of America's infatuation with burritos is that it has oversimplified and contaminated the idea of Mexican cuisine for much of the country and other parts of the world. Complacency with cheap, low-quality, and basic menu options has made Mexican food two-dimensional—it's either tacos or burritos. It's as if a vast majority of consumers look to Mexican food for dull, comforting consistency.
The soul of Mexican cuisine is in the subtleties: unique ingredients, spices, processes, and preparation. These aspects produce exceptional dishes, but not because they're hidden under a flour tortilla.
It's time to put the burrito down and never look back, but chances are that all this talk about burritos just made you want one even more. Fuck.
(Ed. note: the MUNCHIES staff loves burritos.)