Do burritos make us American?

I’ve been wanting Mexican food ever since I flew into Taiwan. In fact, the last meal I ate before flying to Taiwan was a burrito, chips, and salsa.

So, this weekend, after TWO MONTHS of not having Mexican food (two months and four days to be exact), I found a place called Macho Tacos in Taipei.

I was skeptical of how tasty the food would be and whether it’d be worth my money (you can get a decent meal here for 2 bucks but a burrito at this place was 5ish), but the pictures and menu online looked authentic, so I was optimistic.

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Because the menu and pics online looked so authentic, I expected to see Latinos behind the counter when I walked in (Taipei is pretty international, so I wouldn’t have been surprised), but there were just the usual Taiwanese people. That made me less optimistic, but I figured I’d give it an honest shot anyway. I ordered a macho-sized burrito with taco meat.

Mis amigos, I was not disappointed. The lettuce inside the burrito was crispy and fresh, the tortilla held together well and tasted normal, the ground beef was perfectly seasoned, the cilantro-lime rice tasted just like Cafe Rio, and the salsa had all the right juices and flavors. It was muy delicioso, but could have benefited from some sour cream, guacamole, and a side of chips (which you can order separately and I’ll definitely do that next time).

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While I was eating, I felt a connection with the burrito. It felt like I was eating my people’s food, a piece of home.

I remembered working with other missionaries in Russia to make Mexican food: cooking and seasoning ground beef and chili, making homemade tortillas, chopping and mixing vegetables to make salsa (which we’d eat with crackers since tortilla chips aren’t a thing in Russia).

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Why do so many Americans love Mexican food? Why did we work so hard to make it on my mission?

Americans eat lots of pizza, hot dogs, and hamburgers too, which you can also buy at restaurants here, but I think Mexican food is different. Mexican food has a homemade quality and feel that other “American” foods don’t match. Homemade pizza doesn’t taste the same and to make hamburgers or hot dogs at home, you basically just buy packaged meat and buns. But you can make all the parts of a Mexican meal at home without thinking twice about it (except tortillas — homemade tortillas are a pain).

I understand that Mexicans and Americans eat different kinds of Mexican food: Americans mainly stick with tacos and burritos, along with some of our own spin-offs like nachos and chili, while Mexicans have A LOT more than that. But what we call “Mexican” is actually American to me.

So thank you, Mexicans, for giving us your best.

And not to get political but I’m going to: America is such a great country. Sure I get annoyed that the bread and chocolate aren’t as good as they are in Europe and that Americans like to whine a lot on Facebook (“MY freedoms say I can do this!” “Well MY freedoms say you can’t!”), but comparing it to other places I’ve visited (like Russia and Mexico and even Italy), it’s SO clean, SO safe, and there’s SO much less corruption that it’s selfish and unchristian that immigrating into the US is SO difficult.

I have friends from other countries who have college degrees or have even married US citizens (legitimately) yet struggle to maintain a visa or get a green card. They’ve had difficult lives and worked hard to come to America, leaving behind family and culture in exchange for the American dream, but in America they’re getting even more difficulty and harder work with little reward. If their native governments can’t recognize them for their hard work, then the United States should. They can help America out just as much as burritos can.

Anyway, Macho Tacos in Taipei is very tasty and authentic. I saw some Latinos and other Americans there too, so I’m not the only one who thinks so. Walking out of the restaurant, I had to remind myself that I was still in Taiwan, my burrito having temporarily transported me home.

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3 Replies to “Do burritos make us American?”

  1. Double testified !
    I went for nachos , burritos or tacos when I was happy on my mission, and I was happy almost everyday haha.
    That’s my mission food indeed, maybe because I had 80% American companions I love them! 😁
    It is sooooooo hard to find an authentic and yummy Mexican restaurant here, well at least I tried since I came back from mission!
    so u got me, I’m becoming your faithful reader now.

  2. You’re not alone…

    I live in Munich for four years and in Germany for about ten years. One thing that is hard for me to cope with is crappy and pseudo Mexican food in Germany. Some tasted like they cooked in the dark, not knowing what to season and what to put together. Some tasted too mild (for my taste). Asking for hot sauce bottles brings a consternation from my German friends: “no, no, no, that’s too hot, and it’s not good for you!”. One drop of habanero sauce is like Armageddon for my poor German friends. Not to mention the fiery aftermath in the loo…

    Slowly and steadily, I added more and more pseudo Mexican restaurants in Germany to the restauranta non grata.

    Oh, I forgot to mention that I lived in Texas, Colorado, and California where I became certifiably insane about the Mexican cuisine. And connoisseur, too.

    A couple of years ago, I heard Chipotle Mexican Grill opened its first ever German store in Frankfurt. I made three-hour pilgrimage to Frankfurt and dragged a good friend of mine along. Upon seeing the Chipotle, I almost passed out from the hyperventilation. Thankfully, my perpetually sceptical German friend kept me steady as we coursed through the preparation and brought the order toward the table.

    Every time I visit the United States, I made a beeline to the nearest Chipotle Mexican Grill after alighting in the US. My American friends didn’t understand the fuss about the hajj-like determination. Ditto for the last meal before departure.

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