You may be familiar with Chula’s California burrito or our wet burrito, as they are some of our most popular menu items. Burritos are versatile, delicious and portable meals good for breakfast, lunch or dinner. At first glance, one might not think too much about the origin of this delightful food, but trust us when we say, the burrito’s history is worth a read.
The Origin of the Burrito
The burrito we all know and love today is a staple dish in Mexican-American cuisine. Although often considered a traditional Mexican food, the burrito’s origins start in more recent times in Northern Mexico. One thing is for sure — the farther south in Mexico you go, the fewer traces of burritos you will find. One reason for this is because wheat was only grown in Northern Mexico after it was introduced to Mesoamerica in post-Columbian times. Burritos could have been brought to America as war food during the Mexican Revolution in the early 1900s. While ancient Mexicans had tortillas and ate food similar to modern tacos and enchiladas, the burrito differs as it is made with a wheat tortilla instead of a corn tortilla.
Burrito Means “Little Donkey”
The term burrito means “little donkey.” Although the reason for this remains unknown, there are several theories. The most popular theory is that burritos were once served out of the back of donkey carts and the food was kept warm by wrapping them in tortillas. Another theory is that a burrito resembles a donkey’s ears or the rolled packs they carried. The earliest recorded use of the word was in 1895 in the Diccionario de Mexicanismos which states that a burrito is “A rolled tortilla with meat or other ingredients inside…” The first mention of a burrito in a U.S. menu was in the 1930s at a Spanish cafe in Los Angeles.
The Burrito combines New World and Old World Flavors
A burrito is one of the most versatile foods. It can be filled with the traditional meat and beans, or be filled with rice, salsa, guacamole, cheese, sour cream, lettuce and many other ingredients. At Chula’s we have several options for burritos, including our breakfast burrito and Mexican BLT. Basically, anything wrapped in a flour tortilla can potentially be considered a burrito.
The burrito exploded in popularity in the U.S. thanks to the Tex-Mex fad that started during the 1970s. While the burrito is widely found in the U.S. and Northern Mexico, the rest of Mexico doesn’t consider the burrito as a traditional Mexican food. In Southern Mexico, you will tend to only find them in touristy areas, made especially for Americans and their burrito-obsessed palates.
Next time you are craving a burrito — which we know will be very soon — get your fix at Chula’s Cantina!