Posts Tagged burrito

Isn’t that special?

Let’s talk about the word “special” for a moment, shall we?  I’m not talking about it in the context of “special needs,” mind you.  (But now that I think about that term, it keeps sounding more and more demeaning.  “Oh everybody has needs, but his needs are super duper special!”)  I’m talking about the noun form of it.  We’re used to seeing that noun most often in two distinct realms: television and dining.

When there’s a t.v. “special,” it’s usually fairly true to the meaning of the word.  That it, it’s a not-regularly-scheduled program that should have increased value to the audience because of its rarity.  It’s special compared to the normal crap that the station airs, right?  So I have no problem with that usage.

Let’s say you’re out at a restaurant and the server comes over to greet you.  What often happens next?  He or she tells you the “specials.”  For the most part, I think these fit the bill as well.  The swordfish entree isn’t on their menu but they’re making it tonight, so it’s special.  Fine.  That said, there’s a place down the street from my old office that my buddy Rob and I went to a handful of times that always had the same “special.”  It quickly became a running gag, and we’d have to try to keep a straight face as the server said the same thing verbatim as we’d heard every other time in there.  In fact, if we drove past that restaurant, it was likely that one of us would say to the other, “Hey, I wonder if they’re serving their lightly dusted sanddabs with blah blah blah mustard something.” “Ooh, they just ran out,” the other might reply.  Good times.

That brings us to lunch specials, specifically the kinds that have no right using that word.  I’ve been to countless places that have the same “specials” on their printed menus or even on giant banners that never get taken down.  If you have them every single day for people to order, that’s not a special; that’s just a menu item.  I thought about this because I was eating lunch a couple of days ago at a Mexican place recommended to me by that same buddy Rob.  I studied the giant glossy banner announcing the “lunch specials” and saw that they each came with rice and beans.  I ordered the carne asada burrito “special” because that’s what I do to compare manzanas to manzanas, then took a seat.  A few minutes later, the guy nodded to me and I walked up to take my tray of food.  I looked and saw only a wrapped up burrito on the plate.  “Excuse me,” I said, “but I thought the special came with rice and beans.”  Without missing a beat, he replied, “They’re inside the burrito.”  He said it as if it should’ve been obvious.  “Oh that makes sense,” I said sarcastically, but he missed my tone completely and smiled as though he fully answered my question.  Awesome.

So that’s what caused me to analyze the word in detail and write this post.  (And in case you were wondering, the burrito itself was pretty good, but nothing special.)

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The (re)search for truth

I think I’ve recovered from the (totally deserved) shaming I received from my last post.  In fact, I’ve recovered and learned my lesson enough that I’m going to do at least a wee bit of research before concluding this post to shelter myself from more ridicule.  Here goes:

I frequently get lunch from one of the various gourmet food trucks that park on the street right by my office.  They’re great, and I’ve tried a large number of them since this trend started a little while back.  Last week, I was happy to see a Brazilian one that I’ve gone to before.  I’m a creature of habit, so I didn’t even look at the menu as I strolled up and placed my order (a carne asada burrito, por supuesto).  I stepped back as my co-workers ordered.  “What did you get?” I asked one of them.  “I’m trying that new sandwich they have,” she said pointing to the menu on the side of the truck.  Having bypassed the whole menu-looking part of the process before, I followed her finger and read the description of the meal aloud.  “That sounds good,” I said.  I was about to move onto something else when a little spark fired in my brain.  “Wait a minute – it says it comes with ‘pickled cucumbers.’ Aren’t those just called ‘pickles?'”  She cocked her head a little before saying, “Yeah…right?”  “I guess we’ll see,” I said.  Her sandwich came, and sure enough, it was topped with what you and I would just call “pickles.”  The funny thing (to me at least) is that when I first read the description, I had the quick thought that I would order it without those pickled cucumbers.  I pictured them as shredded for some reason and not tasting like something I’d like.  As soon as I realized that they were probably just regular pickles, the sandwich sounded even better to me.  That begs the question: why wouldn’t they just say “pickles?”

Funny you should ask.  I did a little research (old dog, new tricks, yadda yadda yadda) with the always-accurate Wikipedia, and I learned two very important things.  I found an entry for “pickled cucumber,” which said that it is “commonly known as a pickle in Australia, Canada, and the United States or generically as gherkins in the UK.”  I can’t help but notice that Brazil is not on that list, thereby making their menu item of “pickled cucumbers” not only permissible, but downright authentic.  My apologies to the yummy burrito makers.

The second thing I learned made me contort my face and shake my head in a very specific way.  Let’s see if you do the same.  Under types of pickled cucumbers, the last one on the list is “Kool-Aid pickles.”  The description: “Kool-Aid pickles or ‘koolickles,’ enjoyed by children in parts of the Southern United States, are created by soaking dill pickles in a mixture of Kool-Aid and pickle brine.”  Maybe I’m an uninformed Yank making a snap decision here, but that sounds fucking disgusting.  I was doing just fine not knowing about that.  In fact, I might have to rethink this whole “actually looking things up before I write about them” thing.

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Taking none for the team

There are two types of opening a door for someone. The first is where you pull it open, hold it, and wait for the person to pass you as he or she walks through the doorway.  I’ll call this method the After You.  The second is when you push the door open, wait for the person behind you to get within reach, and “pass” the door to him or her before you continue on your way. Let’s call it the Push and Transfer.  Everyone ok with my assumptions and name-assigning so far?  Good.

I made an excellent executive decision on which method to utilize when I went to Chipotle a couple of nights ago. As I pulled into a parking spot by the restaurant, I noticed a big van a couple of spots away.  It stood out because at least a dozen young women with “Citrus College Basketball” on their sweatshirts got out of it and started walking toward the front door just as I was. I booked it to make sure that I arrived before them, because I knew full well how much extra time it would take for me to get my food if I were behind that group. The first woman of the group was just a couple of feet behind me as I approached the door, so I did what I had to do:  I went for The Push and Transfer.  I straightened my arm, forced the door open, established my place in front of them, and then said “Here you go” when she took the door from me. “Thanks,” she said, but the pleasure was truly all mine. 

Before I ordered, I looked back at the gaggle of women basketball players.  (They travel in gaggles, right?)  I counted, and there were 17 people in their group.  I mentally commended myself once more and stepped confidently up to the counter to place my order.  It’s not easy to be thanked for being polite while performing a selfish action, but I managed to pull it off.  And then I ate a kick ass burrito.

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