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Money for Nothing, Chips for Free

May 13, 2009

Brittney at CBS5’s Eye on Blogs asks, “Should tortillas chips always come free with a taqueria burrito?”  (And apparently someone in Oakland had answered via graffiti.)

While chips make up for important structural integrity issues towards the burrito’s final moments (and are especially helpful with jamming tomatilla sauce into a too-dry specimen), a problem I see is too many of the chips you get (free or not) are not that great. I’ve noticed a downward trend over the past several years in free tortilla chip quality.  (As for bags of chips, I haven’t done an exhaustive survey, but some of the best are the ones La Tapatia in SSF.)

But I must reveal a Deep Burrito Justice Secret — some of my favorite tortilla chips are the organic ones from Costco.  They ROCK.

costco organic chips

Of course, we should all bow our heads to remember the woman who discovered/invented/popularized the tortilla chip in Los Angeles in the 1940s, Rebecca Webb Carranza. The El Zarape Tortilla Factory had recently installed tortilla robots:

Corn and flour disks poured off the conveyor belt more than 12 times faster than they could be made by hand. At first many came out “bent” or misshapen, as company President Rebecca Webb Carranza recalled decades later, and were thrown away.

For a family party in the late 1940s, Carranza cut some of the discarded tortillas into triangles and fried them. A hit with the relatives, the chips soon sold for a dime a bag at her Mexican delicatessen and factory at the corner of Jefferson Boulevard and Arlington Avenue in southwest Los Angeles…


Some great history is behind nuestra madre de tortilla chip:

As a young girl, Rebecca and her five brothers lived through periodic raids by Mexican bandit and revolutionary Pancho Villa and other thieves in northern Mexico.

“Pancho Villa did not like her father, because he was American,” said Mario R. Carranza, the first of her two sons. “She had pictures of her father on his horse dashing away from danger.

Sadly, she was forced out of business in 1967 as big companies moved in.  But she was later recognized by the industry she helped found:

In 1994 and 1995 — the only years the award was given — Carranza was among the recipients of the Golden Tortilla, created to honor about 20 industry innovators, said Mario Orozco, an employee of Irving, Texas-based Azteca Milling, who thought up the celebration.

Rebecca Webb Carranza, inventor of our favorite chip, recipient of the Golden Tortilla… we salute you.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 14, 2009 8:59 am

    Obviously you should get free chips with a burrito. They provide a pleasing, crunchy counterpoint to the mostly soft-textured burrito itself.

    I’ve seen people using them as scoops, digging at the open top of a burrito like it’s a bowl of dip. Obviously this practice is not to be encouraged.

  2. May 14, 2009 11:27 am

    The contrast is indeed pleasing.

    Tortilla utilization guide:

    DRILL BIT = YES (injecting tomatilla)
    BACKHOE = NO (excavating tortilla)
    BULLDOZER = YES (scooping up remnants, cleanup)

    Don’t get me started on those people who UNWRAP their burritos. Dude, the foil is a critical part of the burrito’s structural integrity!

  3. May 15, 2009 11:22 am

    Just a heads-up that everyone I work with is bummed that the taco truck that was parking in the lot on Second St. near Harrison is no longer allowed to use the space. There’s a big sign up there now. There is much lamentation.

  4. May 17, 2009 1:49 pm

    This makes me sad. Nutritionistas 1, tacos 0.

    But their victory is phyrric, we shall prevail.

  5. Jack permalink
    May 21, 2009 12:28 pm

    Chips should always be included with a burrito! Always! The chips at Dos Pinas near De Haro and 16th (I think) and at La Taqueria on 25th and Mission rock. They are think, crunchy, and taste fresh. The chips at all of the Taqueria Cancuns kinda suck. Any quality of chip, though, is good if the hot sauce or salsa is quality.

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