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Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Encharitos

Happy Sunday dear readers!

This weekend, I got a lesson in humility. Since I married my husband, I have come to appreciate "peasant food" like beans and rice, or pork and cabbage because they're cheap and can be consumed over the course of a few days. My husband, being our household cook, likes to make these sorts of dishes from scratch and adulterate them as he sees fit.

Yesterday, my neighbor's wife made encharitos and gave us some as a thank you for my husband giving her an old microwave of ours, in addition to giving her family a ride to the grocery store. My husband was quite thrilled to get some, but I had never heard of such a dish and was puzzled about it.

That cheese-covered thing is an encharito


Encharitos are a poor person's dish indigenous to the Southwestern part of the US, where the Frito-Lay snack factory began. Essentially, it's a combination of Mexican enchiladas and burritos; hence, encharitos. As my husband explained, you have to have either lived in the Southwest or Texas for a long time, or be a native to the region to have familiarity with this dish. My neighbor is of Apache-German ancestry, and grew up on the reservation here in Arizona.

The way my neighbor made the encharitos was that she used store-bought frozen bulk burritos and covered them with sour cream and lots of cheese before putting them in the oven to bake for a bit. Since we were having chili for dinner, we had the encharitos to go with it instead of the cornbread my husband planned to make. Given how drenched they were in melted cheese, something my husband positively detests, I was surprised he would even stand the sight of them. His response: scrape the cheese off the encharito and dump the remaining burrito into his bowl of chili. I ate the cheese.

What was my take on this bit of impoverished culinary ingenuity? It was filling, but I was not sure what to make of it. It blended well with the spicy chili, but on its own it was probably pretty mild. It was quite edible, however, and I commend her on that, but it was a far cry from something my husband could make. If this was one example of impoverished cooking indigenous to my region, I was a bit apprehensive about trying something else from this particular culinary genre.

After dinner, my husband proceeded to school me on gratitude for having someone who can cook cheaply from scratch. Since he'd lived the vast majority of his adult life in poverty and drawing upon his family's tradition of male cooks, my husband figured out some basics about making good food from scratch so that he didn't have to rely on pre-made foods from the store very much. Not everyone, he explained, is so fortunate. Some lack the education to cook from scratch, others lack the time or talent to do an effective job. Either way, I should not begrudge such individuals, since I too could very well have followed in their paths.

And that was how I spent my Saturday

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