Burritos, like barbecue, are a fiercely defended culinary icon--defined not by what they're made of, but by where they're made. In the North, a burrito is a foil-wrapped behemoth: a tortilla the size of a manhole cover bursting with rice, black beans, meat, and an unending list of ingredients that would empty the shelves of most Latino markets. Buried in a blizzard of guac and sour cream and salsa, it's unrecognizable to partisans of the austere (and rice-free) parcels of refried beans and cheese found in the South. Allegiances run strong.
When Jonathan Gold, LA Weekly's food critic, wrote a column last year calling San Francisco-style burritos "monstrous," claiming that they're filled with things that "neither God nor man ever intended to see the inside of a tortilla," folks in the Bay Area rushed to their keyboards to defend their own, and a bitter fight ensued. I've stood on both sides of the battleground.