Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food

By Jeffrey M. Pilcher | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
BURRITOS IN THE BORDERLANDS

Although the taco first emerged in Mexico City, many other foods that are now usually considered to be Mexican had their origins in the northern borderlands. The burrito exemplifies this peculiar geography of global Mexican, eaten widely around the world, but virtually unknown in most of Mexico. Wrapped in a wheat flour tortilla, it is a distinctive product of the frontier, unlike the corn-based dishes popular in the rest of the country. The use of animal fat in making flour tortillas also sets them off from the vegetarian corn variety. While the wrapper is norteño, burrito fillings often are not; for example, the combination of beans and rice is more characteristic of the Caribbean than of northern Mexico. When deep-fried, a technique more often found in U.S. fast food than in Mexican cooking, they are called chimichangas, which is a nonsense word in Spanish. The “Mission burrito,” a popular variety that is wrapped in aluminum foil to keep from bursting under the weight of the stuffing, derives its name from the Mission District of San Francisco rather than from Catholic evangelization on the northern frontier. A final indication of the burrito’s Americanization can be found in its enormous girth; one observer declared it “possibly the single heaviest fast-food item in the world.” 1 Literally meaning the “little donkey,” the burrito’s origins are as obscure as those of the taco. Early Spanish dictionaries offer no culinary definitions for the word, although donkeys bearing food were a common motif in colonial

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Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction - A Tale of Two Tacos 1
  • Part I - Proto-Tacos 19
  • Chapter 1 - Maize and the Making of Mexico 21
  • Chapter 2 - Burritos in the Borderlands 46
  • Part II - National Tacos 77
  • Chapter 3 - From the Pastry War to Parisian Mole 79
  • Chapter 4 - The Rise and Fall of the Chili Queens 105
  • Chapter 5 - Inventing the Mexican American Taco 130
  • Part III - Global Tacos 161
  • Chapter 6 - The First Wave of Global Mexican 163
  • Chapter 7 - The Blue Corn Bonanza 189
  • Conclusion - The Battle of the Taco Trucks 221
  • Notes 233
  • Glossary 263
  • Select Bibliography 268
  • Index 283
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