Burritos: Authentic or adapted?


A great Mexican spot on 75th and Lemont, that adopts burritos fully.

The burrito is a truly glorious thing. Founded on the basis of unnecessary proportions, overloading of ingredients and that iconic tin foil wrapping. The burrito is a staple in my food rotation and an item that has grown to become something I can always look forward to.

The age old question remains, where did burritos come from. Is there a true founder, or are burritos a societal construct that have no true origin? Are burritos originally Mexican food?

I spoke with my girlfriend’s father who is of Mexican descent and came to realize that he was almost entirely unsure if the burrito was even served in mexico. He made it seem as if the burrito may be an American food in and of itself.

To begin, a burrito as we know and love today is most usually a large flour tortilla filled with a variety of fillings. Most often there is meat, rice, bean, cheese and vegetables, rolled into a convenient and often very large package of food. Burritos are on many people’s top 5 food lists, mine included.

The burrito was not founded on excess, and wasn’t even an American adaptation; the origin was practical and truly genius. As the story is told, there was a man named Juan Mendez in the 1910’s that would purchase food from a small vendor in the mexican revolution, however the food would have to go a long way. His solution was to wrap the hot food in a large flour tortilla as he traveled on his small donkey.

He called it the “food of the burrito” or food of the donkey, this was quickly adapted to just, “burrito” that we know and love today.

Burritos first appeared in the US at the “El Cholo Spanish Cafe” in Los Angeles in the 1930’s. It was at this point that history got confusing with the burrito. People often look at the burrito as an American dish that was adapted to authentic Mexican cuisine, however we know the true origin to be in fact Mexican.

Burritos sold in Mexico today are served almost exclusively on the northern border of Mexico around Chihuahua. We see extreme burrito popularity in North America but, truly, burritos are not a staple in Mexico today.

To answer your burning question, are burritos a societal construct that have no origin? No they are not, and their origin speaks to the ingenuity that results from wars and conflicts. Further examples include the Mercedes G-wagon, the nuclear submarine, the star spangled banner and last but not least the flu shot.