“It was a dark and stormy burrito…”


It’s enough to get me eating fast food again.

Chiptotle, purveyors of Mexican munchies, is now featuring sides of literature to go with its burritos, beans and guacamole. (Guacamole is one of my favorite words, by the way. It just is.) They’re printing original writings from the likes of George Saunders, Toni Morrison, Jonathan Safran Foer, Sheri Fink and Malcolm Gladwell onto their cups, bags and other store items. Called Cultivating Thought, the series is intended to offer food for the mind as well as the belly.Chipotle_bags

It all happened when Foer, author of the novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, sent an email to Chipotle’s CEO suggesting the idea of unique authorial content as a kind of public service, something to set the chain apart. Surprisingly the exec agreed this would be a good idea. It was that simple.

Foer says what interested him is, “800,000 Americans of extremely diverse backgrounds having access to good writing. A lot of those people don’t have access to libraries, or bookstores. Something felt very democratic and good about this.”

I think this is mind-bogglingly brave. Not that they’re printing literature on cups and bags, but that they honestly believe in this day and age someone (besides me) came into the restaurant without their phone to entertain them.

Foer also says Chipotle refrained from meddling in the editorial process. “I selected the writers, and insofar as there was any editing, I did it. I tried to put together a somewhat eclectic group, in terms of styles. I wanted some that were essayistic, some fiction, some things that were funny, and somewhat thought-provoking.” Variety, like hot sauce, is the spice of life.

This is a great concept. Lovers of the printed word should rejoice. My heart warms picturing people reading their cups and bags instead of swiping their fingers over their Pintarests and Instagrams. The question is, will they really do it? Are the bleak and thorny thoughts of George Saunders a match for comfy, cozy Facebook puppies and kittens?

I hope so. As bookstores and authors get progressively squeezed, those who love words are coming up with new and clever ways to keep their work in front of eyeballs. Those who write off the novel or any other form as dead neglect the fact that 70s audio equipment—belt-driven turntables, tuners and receivers, three-way acoustic speakers, and phono cartridges—are extremely in demand right now and fetch premium prices.

So maybe Chipotle has figured out a way to show that ink on paper is very special—even if most of the time you’ll toss that paper into the trashcan after you finish your meal.

Anyway, whaddaya think? And whaddaya think of this?


Read more about Chipotle’s new idea here.


4 responses

  1. A bold move for sure. Perhaps there is hope for us yet?


    May 23, 2014 at 8:02 am

    • At the very least, it makes me more willing to pay the additional charge for Chipotle’s guacamole, which is the only topping that costs extra. (And to me a burrito isn’t complete without guacamole.)


      May 26, 2014 at 11:06 am

  2. I think Chipotle MEXICAN grill which relies on the Mexican culture for its food inspiration and in no small part relies on a labor force “from farm to face” that is in no small part Latino might have thought to include ONE Mexican American writer. That what I think. It’s 2014, not 1492.

    Check out our Facebook page – Cultivating Invisibility: Chipotle’s Missing Mexicans



    June 13, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    • An EXCELLENT point. Could you give me the names of some authors you would like to see included in the mix? I might contact them if I can and ask this very question. Thanks.


      June 13, 2014 at 3:34 pm

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