Chipo… ChipOtel… ChipotE…

A chipotle (also chilpoctle and chilpotle, from the Nahuatl chilpoctli meaning smoked chile) is a dried chile pepper, usually jalapeno, that has been smoked. It is usually found whole in adobo sauce. It’s yummy! Spanish is easy to pronounce. For the most part, say all the letters in the order in which they appear: Chi-Pot-le (chi-POTE-lay).
Hint – say it with the gusto of a South American play-by-play soccer announcer and you’ll sound like you really know what you’re doing.

I went to Taco Bell the other day. The stucco building was festooned with deep red window-clings advertising the lastest in gastronomic bombs the PepsiCoo chain passes off as “Mexican Food” – the Chipotle Grilled Stuffed Burrito. I’ve been to Mexico and eaten the local culture. It was nothing like a “Chalupa”. I’ve also been to a slough of wonderful family-owned Mexican eateries here in the Grand Rapids Area: El Arriero, El Sol, and Maggies Kitchen stand out in my mind. I feel blessed, as a lover of the slightly spicy dishes served by the multi-generational or recent immigrants from Mexico who may have ridden the waves of migrant work so plentiful here in “America’s Salad Bowl”. Taco Bell makes something wholely-other-than Mexican food, and as long as I create the intellectual separation between Mexican Food and what they make, I’m happy.

I approache the menu, perched high above the heads of the cashiers, and read carefully, fully intending to make my selection from the 99-cent menu. Marketing got the better of me as the suggestive banners had already worked their magic. Flanking each side of the fluorescentt-back-lit menu were two panels each extolling the virtues of the Chipotle Grilled Stuffed Burrito. To the left, the Chipotle Grilled Stuffed Burrito $2.19 – chicken or steak. To the right, add an enormous Mt. Dew and some stale tortilla chips with a plastic tub of nacho-cheese (a combo-meal) for a bit more. It beckoned.

Sam is a retiree working the cash register at the Taco Bell on Apple Ave. in Muskegon near my office. I don’t actually know his name, as whatever appears on his name tag is quickly replaced in my brain by “Sam”. I don’t know for sure that he’s a retiree either, but that’s the story I’ve made up for him and I’m sticking to it.

Sam wore a cookie-duster mustache that made him look like Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton (right) and the same glasses he’d purchased in 1951 after the war. Those frames had gone out of style and now come back into style as Sam held a job that provided free food to polish off his golden years. Sam had worked 44 years as an accountant for Worldwide Fishladder and Sons, before he was rewarded with a pink-slip. Mild-mannered Sam was a skilled accountant, a little too-skilled if you know what I mean. The court had not been kind to him in light of the recent Enron and Arthur Anderson scandals, but he was just a pawn and was given fines and community service instead of prison time.

My turn at the counter came and I returned Sam’s gravely “Welcome to Taco Bell, may I take your order?” with a calm steady voice.
“May I please have a Chipotle Grilled Stuffed Burrito – Steak.”
I never got that far actually.
Partway through the words Chipotle Grilled…, Sam jumped in with an impatient, “You want a Chalupa?”
No thank you, said I, “I would like a Chipotle Grilled Stuffed Burrito”. This time my own tongue turned traitor during the “Chipotle” and I had to repeat it again.
“A Chipotle Grilled Stuffed Burrito if you please.”
Sam looked dubious.

Then a light, from some far-away training video clicked on as Sam saw me looking forlornly at the sign above his left shoulder.
“You want that?” He asked in his cantakerous manner.
He gestured with his thumb at the combo meal version of the Chipotle Grilled Stuffed Burrito sign nearest.

Thunderstruck, and already amused, I shifted my gaze to the far end of the menu, where the non-combo meal version hung with it’s unadulterated price.
“No, actually, I want that one,” and I pointed with my left thumb to the other sign.

“Gotcha.” Sam said, and rang up the order with a sly wink.

“Order number 158.” Sam continued and handed me the receipt and my change.

When the time came, I collected my Chipotle Grilled Stuffed Burrito and returned to the office. The soda cooler held a bottle of cran-grape, and a bottle of water with my name on them.

I really did enjoy that burrito.

…maybe it’s just me.

One Reply to “Chipo… ChipOtel… ChipotE…”

  1. I realize I’m a little late on reading this one, but I just wanted to say well done. I really enjoyed this one.

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