February 13, 2009

Loving the burrito…

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I have been eating a lot of burritos lately and decided that it is fastly
becoming my favorite food. There is nothing more tangible – wrapping your
hands around the warm tortilla shell packed tightly with rice and beans
(always ‘mashed’ or refried as they are called in the States) and meat and
beautiful green guacamole and salsa and sour cream and cheese softly melting

There is a special place I go – measuring about 300 square feet. The
majority is devoted to cooking space except a small sliver where patrons come
in, order, and wait. The fire is always hot beneath the grill, there are
always big pots boiling over on the stove, and always hardworking hands
preparing food and tending to various tasks. In all the times I have gone – at
all hours of the day – I remain amazed by the perfectly pressed shirt, neatly
slicked back graying hair, quietly trimmed mustache, and gently balancing
glasses of the gentleman who sits patiently behind the register.

With a warm grin, he oversees the operation – speaking passionately and
lovingly about the food they prepare. In my visits I can recall vividly our
conversations about all matter of things. We spoke once for a half hour about
tortillas, how his are prepared, handmade, and why they are able to better
withstand the heat of the fuel packed tightly within. We spoke about the
origin of the burrito, how it came to be a common food of northern Mexico, and
how it moved northward with the migration of workers during harvest season. We
spoke about ‘mashed’ beans, how they are prepared, how they are spiced, and
how the consistency is maintained without adding additional lard. We spoke
about family, where he was from, how he ended up in this little storefront on
the western coast of California. From our numerous conversations, it is
apparent that he has a great deal of respect for his life, what he does, and
his journey.

In thinking about all this, I am reminded of something that I hear more
often these days. I hear it mostly echoing over our IRC channel when I ask a
question about this or that – something I often don’t know or understand. And
it is not limited to one particular name or instance but all have remarked and
suggested this course of action over time. And it rings: ‘look it up on
wikipedia’. Of course I – of all people – understand the power and wonder and
majesty of the Internet. And of course the information garnered from the
gentleman above lives within the hundreds of thousands of indexed and
cross-referenced wikipedia pages. In the end, however, I always prefer the
tangibility of open discourse – it makes everything taste better.