I’ve been thinking a lot about burritos. Specifically about how I’m slowly, reluctantly, but increasingly boldly, realising that I … well, simply put, I don’t really like them.

Cue shock and horror.

But – but you lived in Latin America!

But – but you speak Spanish!

But – but burritos are amazing!

… You do like latino food, right?

The more I think about it and the more I talk about it, the more I see there’s no denying it. At first I thought it was just that Mexican food in Australia sucks; I’ve never been to Mexico or had Tex-Mex, but I have enjoyed a couple of great Mexican meals in Spain (and some okay ones in Ecuador). Here in Canberra and elsewhere around the country, burritos and Mexican fare are all the rage. It must be a drug that hasn’t worked on me.

I’ve pinpointed my burrito aversion to the tortilla + rice combination – too many carbs in one package (which incidentally, based on my experience in Loja, is one of the hallmarks of Ecuadorian cuisine). I find I don’t mind a burrito bowl because there’s no tortilla. But I certainly don’t love it either.

I’m beginning to wonder if, at the end of the day, I’m simply not a burrito girl. Or a taco girl. Or a nacho girl. And to be honest, part of me feels like this is – for some reason and in some way – a betrayal of who I am. After all, I lived in Latin America and will soon be returning there. I speak Spanish. Everyone says burritos are amazing. I do like (some) latino food.

Or do I?

Part of growing up is figuring out your likes and dislikes. These are preferences and choices that begin to define us as children, and crystallise as we mature. Sometimes they change. My mum thinks I like “powdery” (rather than crispy or crunchy) apples because that’s how I liked them as a child. I don’t, not anymore – but in her head I still do; somehow it’s become part of who I am in her eyes. Similarly, most people who know me assume I love all Spanish and Latin American food because this is consistent with me speaking Spanish and living in South America, which in turn seems to have become a defining part of who I am in other people’s eyes.

How did this happen? Why does everyone think this?

Perhaps it is because this is one of the clear points of difference between me and others in my circles. No one else I hang out with has spent large amounts of time in South America. Only a couple speak any Spanish. And so I am “the one who went to South America” and “the one who speaks Spanish”.

I wonder to what extent I have cultivated this image (being proud that this defines me, and reinforcing it myself) and to what extent this image has cultivated me (that is, to what degree the way that other people see me affects how I see myself)?

Apart from some years in high school worrying about wearing the “right” clothes, I haven’t ever really been concerned about blending in. Of course I wanted and want to fit in; but I never wanted to be like everyone else – or like anyone else, for that matter. In fact, I felt uncomfortable anytime it seemed I might be too easy to pigeonhole, to categorise.

At the same time, I have to admit that I have asked myself questions like, “Is liking Rihanna’s music consistent with who I want to be?” (Answer: No, but for that reason yes) and “How much am I allowed to enjoy this rom-com?” (Answer: some but not a lot) and “What level of ignorance about current affairs is okay for me?” (Answer: The fact that you’re even asking is concerning).

Often it is on a subconscious level that these questions spin around, though I’ve just made a few of them explicit. In the same vein, I now ask whether going to Bolivia in October is truly what I want and feel called to – or simply what I consider to be consistent with my conception of who I am.

Huh. Overthinking burritos really has opened a can of worms …


Header image: Gonzalo Mendiola.

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