Arizona may seem to be falling apart at the seams, but we can bring it back together with the chimichanga.
Tucson’s El Charro Café and Phoenix-based Macayo’s Mexican Kitchen have blended their efforts to produce a petition to get the chimichanga named Arizona’s official state food. The petition, available for signing at checkyesforchimi.com, is timed to fall in line with Arizona upcoming centennial.
El Charro and Macayo’s both lay claim to the origins of the chimichanga with stories of accidentally knocking a burrito into a deep-fryer some years back. One tale says the cook began to utter a Spanish swear word beginning with “chimi-” when she saw the burrito bobbing merrily in hot oil, and then quickly switched her word to “chimichanga.” The closest English translation is “thingamajig.”
Eureka, the chimichanga was born.
Before we delve any deeper into this culinary wonder, we do have to present the ugly, artery-hardening facts. Calories in a single chimichanga range anywhere from about 365 to more than 1,500, depending on the size and what you pack inside. The USDA National Nutrient Database puts a 180-gram beef, cheese and red-chili-pepper chimichanga at 1,521 calories, with about 15 grams protein, 38 grams carbohydrates and nearly 18 grams fat.
Just to put it in perspective, most dietary guidelines are based on eating about 2,000 calories per day, which would be tough at 1,521 calories per meal. Just to put it in a warped perspective, rumor has it Angelina Jolie eats about 800 calories per day—when she remembers to eat, that is.
Despite the hefty calories, carbs and fat, the chimichanga is one of the few deep-fried foods that I cannot help but snatch off my beau’s plate when we go out for Mexican fare. It is far from my top dietary downfall—that slot is reserved for deep-dish pizza—but it is definitely a food that is tasty enough for you not to care that it can kill you.
Before you unfurl that napkin and undo your belt a notch, however, we have to remember that the chimichanga needs to go through the official legislative process before it can become an official state food.
As with any issue that gets siphoned through the process, at least one politician has to speak up and disagree. The anti-chimi camp is backed by several legislators, Fox News reports—not necessarily those against the calories and fat, but those against the timing of the proposal. They say spending time voting on an official state food right about now is preposterous, since the state is mired in economic woes.
I say on the contrary. Regardless of the woeful state of the state, people still need to eat. Voting on the chimi will give lawmakers a much-needed break from the morass of mundane and seemingly hopeless issues. It can also give Arizona something over which to come together, as food has a tendency to unite.
Feeding treats to your pet dogs and pet rats at the same time, for instance, has been known to stop the dogs from eating the rats. A bond is formed over food, with the dogs and rats immediately recognizing they enjoy the same thing and are not so different after all. The same type of bonding can happen in Arizona over the chimi.
Voting in the chimi can also give Arizona a bit of pride. The Grand Canyon State holds lowly ranks on too many lists, from the quality of education to the number of foreclosures, but giving the state an official food can at least keep us in the running somewhere.
Official state foods are already named in a handful of other states, ranging from Idaho’s potato to Maryland’s blue crabs, and from Louisiana’s gumbo to Georgia’s grits. Oklahoma has an entire official state meal that includes okra, squash, cornbread, biscuits, barbecue pork, chicken-fried steak, pecan pie and black-eyed peas.
All we’re requesting is a chimichanga (although one commenter on the petition site did suggest voting in the margarita as the state drink to wash it all down). The petition’s goal is to amass at least 5,000 signatures before it’s passed through the channels, and the site notes that Gov. Jan Brewer seems to be on board. “We certainly have a long heritage of Mexican food in the state of Arizona,” she said, “and I certainly like chimichangas.”