The Mission burrito is a San Francisco institution. Everyone in the Bay Area seems to have an intensely polarizing opinion about it. Rice ruins the authenticity. La Taq is worse than Farolito. And most important: Does a good burrito make you want to burst into Dante's Inferno-level heartburn flames shortly after eating it?
But when you live here, you get it. Burritos are great, and in San Francisco they are better, and the passion for those burritos is unmatched. Within a few months of moving here, I felt like I could almost eat one for every meal.
So I decided to eat nothing but burritos for a week. That's right: seven full days.
Hear me out. What if the burrito is actually God's most complete meal? They hit an awful lot of the food pyramid groups that I know exist. You've got your grains (tortillas, rice), fruit (tomatoes, avocados), vegetables (peppers, onions), meat (if nothing else, you can have a diverse range of proteins), and dairy (cheeeeeeese). I had a suspicion that a week-long #burritocleanse might not only be possible; it might be a new way to live. If people can survive on nothing but kale juice for a week, surely I can survive — nay, thrive! — on a holistic burrito journey.
My friends were encouraging. My girlfriend was actively against the challenge and worried about my decision-making abilities when I said I was going along with it. My mom, surprisingly, was fine with it.
I was, as I am with most things, wrong.
1. Eat a burrito (from any location) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
2. If you're too full, you may skip a burrito meal, but you may not consume any non-burrito food.
3. Liquids are OK.
4. Don't die or poop yourself to death.
BREAKFAST: When I leave my apartment Monday morning, I go straight to a café called New Alternatives and get a breakfast burrito. They exclusively play orchestral covers of pop songs in there, and today's song was "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," which seems portentous in retrospect, but the burritos there are great so I am excited and not looking for warning signs.
The breakfast burrito comes with two eggs, bacon, avocado, cheese, and beans. It is very, very good.
As soon as I get to the office, my co-workers, who know about my burrito cleansing and are thus full of schadenfreude, yell at me. Apparently breakfast burritos only count if they have chorizo. Let the record show that San Franciscans are fascists.
This is the last burrito I actually enjoy.
LUNCH: The BuzzFeed SF office ordered burritos with me, in solidarity. Everyone seemed to like them, but I was still full from my breakfast 'rito and this was more wholesome than your average burrito, which felt like cheating.
DINNER: I'm not hungry again until 9 p.m., when I hit the streets of the Mission in search of my dinnerito. Fun fact: People in San Francisco love to line up for things. As a person who values his time, I think they're collectively insane. So, when La Taqueria (the best) and El Farolito (excellent but overrated) have long lines, I opt for the line-less and still great Taqueria San José. I get carnitas, my favorite 'rito meat, as a reward for getting through the day. Even with carnitas, getting through the burrito is a chore. But still, I have subsisted an entire day on burritos and I am alive. Alive!
Burritos consumed: 3
Spiritual anguish level: 2
LUNCH: For most of Tuesday, I feel like my stomach is filled with rocks. I regret the challenge already. But I'm too lethargic to think too hard about it.
I skip breakfast because absolutely fucking not. I go to Taqueria Cancun for lunch because it's across the street from the BuzzFeed office. I get an al pastor, which is a delicious variety of marinated pork. It's hard to enjoy knowing that it was going to make me feel worse later, but it still tasted good. Burritos always taste good. It's their gift, and their curse.
My original plan was to timeshift my burrito-eating schedule. Instead of eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I would skip breakfast and eat lunch, dinner, and fourthmeal — the burrito's natural habitat. Even with that very logical plan in place, when I leave work I still don't want another burrito and had spent the day thus far seemingly beyond hunger entirely.
Instead, I go out drinking. Drunk Brendan always wants a burrito. I go out to a bar in the Mission with some other reporters, then piggyback my co-workers' press passes to a tech event because there's an open bar. The beer starts to work its magical powers of making me crave fat and grease, even if it's rolled up in a stupid tortilla. Burrito, I am coming!
DRUNK FOOD: I leave and go to El Farolito, score a chicken burrito and resignedly eat as much as I can. I don't finish the burrito. Defeatedly, I trudge home.
Burritos consumed: 2
Spiritual anguish level: 5
Alcohol and burritos are natural foils. Like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, they go really well together, but too much of both means they both jump off a cliff (Note: I've never seen that movie). Which is to say I wake up feeling horrendous. I feel much, much worse than the amount of alcohol I'd consumed warranted — I naturally blame my all-burrito diet. So I decide to adhere to my new tortilla-based food plan and stop drinking for the rest week. Fool me once, burrito cleanse.
LUNCH: I skip breakfast again, electing instead to drink water obsessively. It helps. Turns out that burritos have a high sodium content, and I am starting to feel dehydrated! By lunchtime I'm back in my groove, and I decide to check out this little Mexican place famous for its burritos called Chipotle.
Let's preface all of this with the fact that I used to love Chipotle. I would go often before I moved to San Francisco. I thought its food was good and I liked its brand. So it doesn't make me happy to say that, well, folks: Chipotle is garbage.
I get a steak burrito. The rice — mixed in that buttery, lime solution — felt sweaty somehow, the meat was chewy, and the distribution of hot items and cold items within the burrito was utterly incoherent. I eat it alone in a mall food court. I am sad.
Despite the Chipotle burrito quivering in my stomach, I feel better than I have before for the rest of the day. Another possible factor: There was a juice bar in the same mall, so after lunch I have a juice with kale and spinach in it, because my week's vegetable intake thus far has been limited to tiny pieces of tomato.
DINNER: I have a chicken burrito from the Taqueria Cancun near my apartment. It's good. It's fine. It is a burrito. I am running out of things to think about burritos, because my frontal lobe has been replaced with a generous helping of guacamole. I go to bed feeling like my body's getting used to the burrito cleanse. Readjusting to the burrito omnipresence, like how a carnivore's body recalibrates after she goes vegan. I am one with the Mission. I am one with San Francisco. Burritos are me. I am.
Burritos consumed: 2.5 (Chipotle counts as 1.5 because it's a weapon of mass destruction)
Spiritual anguish level: 4
By now you're probably wondering about the state of my bathroom situation. My poops, surprisingly, have been OK all week. Maybe Farolito's been lacing their food with probiotics?
But here's what I have noticed: Burritos have a lot of sodium. I knew that going into this, but Thursday is when that aspect of the burrito cleanse really kicks in. I'm starting to wake up in the middle of the night and have to get up to get a glass of water. I wake up feeling like garbage. Salty garby.
BREAKFAST: I get a breakfast burrito (with chorizo) for a late breakfast. The late breakfast is strategic: I have a soccer game after work and I assume kicking soccer balls in the hot sun is going to be pretty hellish with a gut full of cheesy rice. I figured that if I skipped lunch and just grabbed a burrito after the game, I'd probably be fine. What's the worst that can happen?
Cramping is the worst thing that can happen.
I've been playing soccer, with some breaks since starting college, for my entire life. I've had my legs cramp up before. This was, delightfully, very different. I run for a few minutes, then a muscle cramps up in a completely unpredictable place, like my upper arm, or one of those horrendous muscles in between your ribs. I had never experienced that before. It's painful and unpredictable, and I feel like I'm being punished by someone particularly sadistic, which I guess I am. The Burrito Overlords.
DINNER: The game does not go well. I go home sore, practically sweating sour cream out of every pore, and eat a burrito with my roommate, who plays on the team with me and is starting to be concerned about my general well-being. I go to sleep, feeling terrible.
Burritos consumed: 2
Spiritual anguish level: 8
On Friday, I hit emotional rock bottom. I wake up furious. I am in a terrible fucking mood, I am tired of eating burritos, and yet I know I've committed myself to eating them for three more days. I am angry at myself, at my editor, and at you, dear reader. This is cheap, stunt journalism. I am killing myself for #content.
So I go to work and sulk. This challenge remains the dumbest thing I've ever done, and no matter how funny or entertaining this turns out, it's not worth the tortilla-wrapped misery. Don't eat only burritos for a week. It's a rule most people don't need to be told, but just in case you're thinking of it, do not do it. Not even if someone is paying for all your burritos.
LUNCH: By now, I have lost the ability to feel hunger. I wolf a burrito at my desk, and whenever co-workers make jokes about burrito week I pretend I can't hear them.
DINNER: I choke down another burrito for dinner, from Papalote — a place usually described as "healthier" or "fancier" or "has better salsa." I can't tell the difference. God is dead.
Burritos consumed: 2
Spiritual anguish level: 10
BRUNCH: After my first burrito of the day on Saturday, I settle into a lethargic state. I stay in bed and read a book and nap until it's time to get my next burrito: a true ouroboros of burrito consumption.
DINNER: It's the weekend, so I feel up to tackle my white whale of this burrito challenge: the lengua burrito. Lengua is boiled beef tongue, which I'm a bit resistant to eating, especially in my compromised digestive state. But if you're eating your way through the Mission, you can't skip it, right?
And yet, chewing on my roll of cow tongue makes me realize that every burrito has begun to taste alike. You could hand me a tortilla filled with shredded Swiffers and I'd be like, cool, my next meal. One more day!
Burritos consumed: 2
Spiritual anguish level: Nothing matters.
It's my last day! I expect to be relieved and happy. "Only one more day in this prison of burritos I have constructed for myself!" I should be exclaiming. Mostly, though, I just feel sad.
Do I hate burritos now? It's more complicated than that. I didn't — and don't — hate burritos. Instead, they've entered a deep valley of anhedonia. Now, a burrito is basically the same thing as porridge to me. Tortilla-wrapped, meat-filled porridge. Burritos are still a good way to blackout digestively for eight or so minutes; to forget all your troubles, and feel worse about everything after. But that's all they're good for.
This week, I killed something I loved. For content.
I eat two burritos on Sunday. On Monday, I wake up, and eat only fruits and vegetables.
Burritos consumed: 2
Spiritual anguish level: 7
Total burritos consumed: 15.5
Calories consumed: ~21,700
Number of different restaurants tried: 9
Types of meat: 7
Diminishment of will to live: Unquantifiable