Burrito Origins

“Signor polpettone venite avanti, non vi peritate,” wrote Pellegrino Artusi in La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene (Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, first published in 1881). “…lo so bene che siete modesto e umile…”: “Please step forward Signor Meat Loaf and please don’t be shy… I know that you are modest and humble.”

In today’s world of ubiquitous haute cuisine, “heirloom” vegetables, and “molecular gastronomy,” we often forget to raise a glass to those salt-of-the-earth dishes that we all — at least most of us — love. Just as Artusi loved his meat loaf, I can never say no to a good burrito — whether ranchero, Mission style, or chimichanga (fried).

When I posted the other day on a burrito I ate in Temecula, I speculated on the dish’s origin. The passage below is the fruit of a little internet research I did this morning (from Palm Springs).

“The burrito, meaning literally little burro or donkey, became irreversibly linked to the tortilla-rolled packages. Burrito lovers David Thomsen and Derek Wilson believe that the modern burrito originated ‘in the dusty borderlands between Tucson and Los Angeles.’ The word burrito first saw print in America in 1934. It was sold at Los Angeles’s famed El Cholo Spanish Cafè during the 1930s. Burritos entered Mexican-American cuisine in other parts of the Southwest around the 1950s and went nationwide a decade later.”

Cited from Smith, Andrew F., “Tacos, Enchiladas and Refried Beans: The Invention of Mexican-American Cookery.” Presented at the Symposium at Oregon State University, 1999.

“1962 MULVEY & ALVAREZ Good Food from Mexico (rev. ed.) iii. 81 Burritos in the northern part of Mexico and in the southwestern part of the United States are quite different. Now a popular dish in many restaurants and taco stands in California and Texas are northern burritos, which are made by folding a flour tortilla around a mound of re-fried beans, seasoned to taste with chili.”

Cited from the Oxford English Dictionary (online edition).

*****

Let’s drink to the hard working people
Let’s drink to the lowly of birth
Raise your glass to the good and the evil
Let’s drink to the salt of the earth

Say a prayer for the common foot soldier
Spare a thought for his back breaking work
Say a prayer for his wife and his children
Who burn the fires and who still till the earth

And when I search a faceless crowd
A swirling mass of gray and
Black and white
They don’t look real to me
In fact, they look so strange

Raise your glass to the hard working people
Let’s drink to the uncounted heads
Let’s think of the wavering millions
Who need leaders but get gamblers instead

Spare a thought for the stay-at-home voter
His empty eyes gaze at strange beauty shows
And a parade of the gray suited grafters
A choice of cancer or polio

And when I look in the faceless crowd
A swirling mass of grays and
Black and white
They don’t look real to me
Or don’t they look so strange

Let’s drink to the hard working people
Let’s think of the lowly of birth
Spare a thought for the rag taggy people
Let’s drink to the salt of the earth

Let’s drink to the hard working people
Let’s drink to the salt of the earth
Let’s drink to the three thousand million
Let’s think of the humble of birth

– “Salt of the Earth,” Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

One thought on “Burrito Origins

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s