The 10 Most Important Burritos in Burrito History

Thumbnail image for elpacificoburrito.jpg
Photo by Sarah Bennett
Cylindrical God
Burritos have been on my mind as of recent, and not just because of the whole pendejada involving Chipotle putting short stories by authors on its cups and bags...none of whom are Latinos. I'm doing something with burritos that will come out...soon, and I think I'm going to have one tonight at 2 a.m. just for the hell of it.

But back to the Chipotle mess: while America loves to gorge on the cylindrical gods, they seem to not care about its past, its history, its pioneers (a topic I cover ad nauseum in my book, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America). So let's rectify that, shall we? In no particular order, behold the 10 most important burritos in burrito history!

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10. The Intergalactic Breakfast Burrito

Photo by the Elmo Monster
Not the space burrito in question, but intergalactic enough

Taco USA begins with the amazing scene of America's astronauts enjoying breakfast burritos in outer space. Astronauts have been eating Mexican food up in the heavens since the 1980s, and what was once considered a joke is now so crucial to the NASA diet that they've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to figure out how to make a tortilla that will last in space for months without rotting. Doesn't matter; according to astronauts, their favorite space tortillas come from an unnamed tortilleria in Houston, which many sneak up with them.

9. The Earliest-Ever Burrito Mentioned in English

Mexican Cookbook
Fergusson's recipe

Burritos are only recent immigrants to the United States. The earliest mention dates back to Erna Fergusson's 1934's Mexican Cookbook. Notice how Fergusson describes them as "little burros," as "burros" is still the name associated in Arizona and Sonora with what the rest of the world calls "burritos." Is there an even-earlier recipe out there?

8. The Burritos that Fed Braceros

Photo by Sarah Bennett
Another random burrito

Burritos did not start getting eaten en masse until the late 1940s and early 1950s with the advent of the bracero program, the joint U.S.-Mexico agreement in which Mexico agreed to subject its citizens to cheap wages (that were still better than what they got in la patria) in American agricultural jobs. To seem like benevolent massas, the American farmers would feed their workers burritos. Only problem? Almost all the braceros came from central Mexico, where flour tortillas were unknown, let burritos. Which meant that braceros despised burritos--welcome to America!

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