Why Burrito? That is the question that I get more than any other. Why does your license plate say burrito? Why do your business cards list you as a burrito enthusiast? Why are you trying to eat a burrito in every state? Why are you so obsessed with burritos? The answer is both strangely simple and incredibly complex.
I love Mexican food and I think that I always have. One of the vivid memories of my youth was being at a Mexican restaurant and being amazed that they could deep fry ice cream. I enjoyed the rare occasions that my mother would stray from making her normal (exceptionally good) cooking to have make your own taco night. I loved the versatility of the simple flour tortilla, and the endless things that you could place inside of it. But most of all I loved spending $5.99 for a massive burrito from Bombers Burrito Bar when I was in college. It was a great place for food at a reasonable price long before I was old enough to venture upstairs to the bar. It was a very college type of restaurant in a very college town, but being poor students that was the treat that we all looked forward to. I still love Bombers, but my horizons have been broadened and my tastes have refined, I now visit with nostalgia rather than with glee, but they do make a hell of a burrito.
Almost 9 years ago I was a bit lost. I had been thrown out of college and was trying to figure out what I would do with my life in the way that many of us did when we were 20 years old. One day I was sitting in a restaurant in Mystic, Connecticut thinking about the priorities of my life. At the time the farthest west I had ever been was Rochester, and I desperately wanted to travel and explore the country. One of my life goals was to visit every state, and I realized that having a specific goal in every state would give me even more motivation. I happened to be enjoying a mediocre burrito (Mystic is not known for it’s Mexican food) and thought “I love burritos, why don’t I eat one in each state?” and so a quest was born. A little over 3 years later I had driven cross country eating burritos all the way to the Pacific. I had the opportunity to visit a number of places that I probably would have just driven through, and gone out of my way to visit others. I have had burritos in many different styles at many different places from hole in the wall restaurants, to tortilla factories, to strip malls, to hotels, to breweries, and even the CNN world headquarters. When people know that I am burritoing a place for the first time they get excited and ask to join, there were 4 car loads of people who wanted to burrito Iowa with me a few years ago. It has become such a big thing that I can legitimately use burrito as a verb. To date I have eaten a burrito in 38 states and the province of New Jersey, with more to come. My original goal was to finish all 50 states by 2017, but I don’t think it is reasonable but hopefully I can make it happen by 2020.
The BURRITO license plate is easily the best $45 I spend each year. I know it is frivolous, but it differentiates me from other Subarus and brings a lot of joy to the people who pull up behind me at stop lights. A week rarely goes by where I don’t get a compliment from a stranger and it is a great conversation starter. I guess I am lucky that nobody else had picked it, but in truth it was my second choice, they apparently DABEARS was already taken (blessing in disguise because it turns out that “Bear” is a term in the gay community so that could have lead to awkward assumptions). It also keeps me from driving like an asshole because if you have a normal license plate number and cut someone off in traffic they forget about it, but if you get cut off by BURRITO then you remember it, and occasionally leave nasty notes under the windshield wiper when you see it again.
The business cards are another piece of silliness. I like having a very nice professional business card that looks fancy and has heft to it, while also showing my playful side. It is also true, burritos make me enthused. It is very hard for me not to be content while eating a burrito. I suppose it is my happy place, and one of the main reasons why I could never give up gluten. I do see various qualities, and judge based on style, but in general burritos make me happy. It is probably a trait that I share with many others, which is why seeing a business card that explicitly states that someone loves burritos makes other people happy. We are all looking for unifying factors, something that makes you and me into an us, why not unify over our love for delicious burritos.
I am a bit obsessive over the things that I enjoy. I suppose it is in part because there are so few things that I truly enjoy so when I find something I jump feet first into it. People associate me with certain things, and one of them is burritos. Whenever there is burrito related news (shockingly frequent) I wind up with a number of messages or facebook posts from my friends. It can sometimes be overwhelming or annoying to get the same article or picture 20 times, but I love the fact that it opens a line of communication and shows that people I care about are thinking of me, and I will put up with plenty of annoyances for my friends.
Why I love burritos is both simple and complex, in the way that many of the best things in life are. Maybe it is the nostalgia for my youth, or the nearly decade long quest, or the enjoyment of good food, or that living in Upstate New York and Vermont has left me with such a low expectation for Mexican food that I can enjoy the simple pleasure of anything wrapped half heartedly in a tortilla. In the end does it matter? I will keep eating burritos wherever I go simply because it is what I do, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.