At its best, the burrito represents a synthesis of everything that is good in food and in society. It is both phallic and yonic, assertively thrusting into your mouth while tenderly enclosing its precious contents. It represents a marriage of primitive man’s earliest labors, both the hunt for delicious meat to roast on the fire and also the agriculture necessary to produce wheat or corn for the tortillas, as well as beans to accompany the meant. (Rice, I would argue, represents a turning away from the Platonic form the burrito, a dilution of its essential burrito-ness. Notice you don’t see anyone here sticking up for rice. It’s filler.)
Before the burrito is constructed, the ingredients are separate. Rice in one bowl, delicious delicious carnitas in another (sorry, I can’t stay impartial), cilantro on the cutting board, tortilla on the plate. But through an alchemical culinary magic, the finished burrito is a unified entity, its contents a heterogeneous melange but a melange nonetheless.
What, you may ask, what is the glue that holds these disparate forces of food and of culture together? What can unite the masculine and the feminine, the hunter and the farmer, the meat and the beans? What sticky, unctuous, ooze can overcome boundaries of cuisine and society to achieve the Epicurean harmony that has been the dream of right-thinking gastronomes since, well, Epicurus?
The answer? Cheese.
Cheese, itself a product of culinary alchemy, and itself an exemplar of balance and harmony—both a solid and a liquid, full of both fat and protein—is what gives the burrito its special, transcendent magic.
Don’t believe me? Just try to keep your mouth from watering: