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The Insanity of Frozen Burritos

June 1, 2017

If you ever want to get me grumpy, ask me about how they teach kids to cook in school. Kids’ cookbooks aren’t that much better. You’ll likely find a recipe that starts with the line, “Open a tube of biscuit dough.”

I remember one of the after-school enrichment classes, where the kids would be doing things like making cupcakes.

Except they don’t make cupcakes. They decorate cupcakes. With store bought icing that’s just crap fat, mixed with crap sugar, crap flavors, and crap colors. There’s probably some crap preservatives in there too, which is stunning, since the whole thing is sugar and fat. But dammit, if you make enough of something, even an extra day of shelf life can mean millions in profits.

The industrialized food system is so incredibly broken. And it’s heartbreaking that we’re indoctrinating kids into it at such an early age. Heck, the school cafeteria doesn’t even have a way to actually cook real food.

So, maybe we need to take it down a notch when we talk about what it means to cook. I’m going to start here, with microwave burritos. Because even if you can’t cook, and don’t have any time at all, they are still nucking futs.

I say this as someone who cooks, but sometimes for the sake of convenience just warms and assembles. If I haven’t come clean about this weekly staple, it’s high time I did.

One of the great culinary embarrassments of my early 20s was the microwave burrito. There I was, living in Northern California, with taco trucks a go go a short BART ride away. And in those first few years, I bought and consumed more frozen microwaved burritos than I care to admit.

Were they good? Heck no. They were fine. But they were filling, cheap, and fast.

But that was before I knew that if you had a pot or two, and a place to warm tortillas, you could do even better on your own. Perhaps even without a Trader Joe’s nearby. But TJs certainly helps.

Here’s the technique.

1) Turn the oven on low.
2) Dampen a stack of whole wheat tortillas, wrap it in foil, and throw it in the oven.
3) Open a can or two of beans, drain, rinse, heat in a pot.
4) Brown a little soy chorizo in a pan, or reheat whatever leftover meat or veg on hand.
5) Wrap it all up together, with some shredded cheese, jarred salsa, and hot sauce.

The end.

Of course, if you wanted to dress it up with avocado, or sour cream, or lime wedges, that’s cool too. Sometimes if I have boiled potatoes around, I’ll dice ‘em up and fry them with the soy chorizo to make chorizo y papas. You can put some egg in there. Whatever you like.

But it’s quick, easy, cheap, filling, and healthful.

Plus, it’s so much better than a frozen microwave burrito, I can’t even tell you. As someone who has had more than his share of frozen microwave meals, I know from experience that they never live up to expectations. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than biting into a blazingly hot burrito only to find a little frozen piece of its core buried in the center of your meal. It happens.

Any leftovers can be turned into a Mexican style hash, or combined and dumped on top of corn chips for a snack. Extra burritos can be refrigerated and brought to work the next day. They are super flexible.

Honestly, I can’t figure out why anyone would choose to make a microwave burrito anymore. Frozen pizza is another category that boggles the mind. But that deserves a post of its own.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2017 10:05 am

    You just made my heart soar. And my 21-year-old burrito eating kid (who just happens to love to cook) is gonna love this too. Sometimes it’s the simple, little things, yes?

  2. June 1, 2017 11:37 am

    I agree with the frozen burrito, but have to say frozen pizza definitely saved me in my first few months of pregnancy when standing in the kitchen alone made me nauseous. I think these things have their place but not in the day to day that they are used now.
    Even my own Home-ec classes (10 years ago) that taught us how to bake bread, and cookies,but not fry an egg were kind of useless. We should be teaching these kids to make soups, stir-fries, and day to day basics that they might actually use for a healthier lifestyle.
    I also cringe at my use of minute rice in my early adult days. Aside from backpacking there’s really no need to even produce that stuff.

  3. June 2, 2017 10:23 am

    At the elementary school down the street from me in Saratoga there is a cooking class where kids grow things in a kitchen garden then turn them into food. In the cafeteria, they compost the leftovers. Having said that, I’m perfectly okay with the idea of a cupcake class that’s actually about decorating cupcakes with crap ingredients.

    Why? Because modding food in any way is a gateway drug. Once kids know they can customize cupcakes they may well move on to actually backing cupcakes from a mix, then baking them from scratch. At least, that’s been the experience in my family.

    Having said that, I’ll add there are some foods that are best NOT made at home because they are better when somebody can do it for you. Burritos, frozen or fresh, or an example. Of course you can go the store, buy oversize flour tortillas, buy a can of beans, buy some meat and spices, but some rice, buy some cheese, buy some aluminum foil, come home and heat/cook it all up while the tortilla warms in the microwave, assemble and then wrap it in aluminum foil and mutter “welcome to Moe’s” to yourself. But why bother when the equal tasting alternative is readily available and for only a dollar or two more than your raw food cost? (Plus on Mondays you get free guac.)

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