Do you have a hard time eating at fancy restaurants where food is presented as a sort of sculpture? I do. It’s usually a small amount of incredible-tasting food, which is great and all, but it’s kind of the opposite of what I consider to be the pinnacle of 2.3 million years of the human race’s food engineering research efforts: The Mission Burrito.
Perhaps you’ve had the good fortune to experience this wonder of culinary imagination: A foil-wrapped, hand-held tortilla cylinder of varying Mexican food contents, from approximately 800 to 1,400 calories. It’s not a sculpture: Quantity of food comes first, taste comes second, presentation comes third. No need to sweat which is the salad fork or the dessert fork or the soup spoon — at birth, you were equipped with all the implements you need to consume a burrito.
There are of course many different varieties of burritos, but the Mission Burrito is the essence of its spirit — you order it, you walk away with it and shove it into your face. No plate, no fork and knife to cut it into bites. Sure, you can smother a burrito in green chili or some other sauce, but that eliminates the convenience of eating a burrito in the first place and you might as well have ordered enchiladas.
Do people ever ask you, “What’s your favorite food?” Of course they do. You say pizza, or sushi, or maybe pho, or some other dish that communicates your experience and distinguished palate, maybe even your world travels. Cool. Let me ask you this: What is your favorite food, and by “favorite food,” I mean, “What food could you eat for every meal for every day for the rest of your life?” This is a real question.
Hey, thanks to the invention of the breakfast burrito at Tia Sophia’s in Santa Fe in 1975, it is possible to eat burritos for all three meals. I call this a “Hat Trick.” I aspire to a hat trick on most days. Sometimes when I have had a burrito for breakfast, and another one for lunch, and I’m hanging out with someone and they say, Hey, you want to grab some dinner? I can hardly contain my excitement in suggesting, Ahem, we should go get burritos?
If they say yes, I try to act cool, but inside, I am like Alexsander Gamme when he found his double cheez doodles in his last food cache in Antarctica.
No one can really pin down the exact origin of the burrito. Even the first-ever Mission-style Burrito is disputed by two different restaurants, much like the buffalo wing and the Philly cheese steak. What is a known fact is that the burrito is superior to any other (non-donut) hand-held food.
Essentially, two watershed events made the burrito possible:
- Someone rolled a tortilla all the way closed around something, making the leap from taco to burrito. In evolutionary terms, this is man beginning to walk upright, or an ancestor leaving the ocean for land.
- Someone made a big tortilla, capable of holding 2-4 cups of food for transport.
It’s quite sad we didn’t document the first burrito, and the first Mission-style burrito in San Francisco in the ’60s. Everyone, of course, can tell you that the Earl of Sandwich more or less invented the sandwich in the 1700s, and that’s of course rad, but really, pretty elementary as far as food inventions are considered. It’s really not even in the same league as a burrito. Imagine intelligent life visited us, and you had the choice between showing them two slices of bread with something in between them, or a burrito. I mean, assuming the intelligent life form has hands to eat with. Of course, you would hand them a burrito.