Surely by now you've heard about the fast food literature project heard 'round the world — Chipotle is putting authors' works on its cups and bags — and maybe chuckled a little at its bright-eyed optimism. Don't get me wrong: I like it. As a writer-ish person myself, I think all publicity for quality creative writing is good publicity, and if the burrito-eaters of the world are about to be collectively introduced to Toni Morrison's Nobel swagger because of this project, then that's great.
But we can all admit that it's a little weird, right? Jonathan Safran Foer, the mastermind behind the project, is famous for writing a book about not eating animals, so why he's hitching his wagon to the meat-laden Chipotle star is a bit confusing. (Probable answer: money. And hey, no judgement there.) Toni Morrison seems way too legitimate to have her work printed on paper soda cups that'll be tossed into the garbage along with burrito bowl scrapings, and as Salon pointed out, George Saunders has "spent his career writing about sensitive artistic types crushed by corporatocracy, so his doing [the Chipotle project] is a little ironic."
For me, the weirdest thing is the prose: it's got nothing to do with burritos. Not that Morrison spends a lot of time writing about the glories of the Chipotle salsa verde, but do we need to read about blood while we're chowing down on tomato-red pico de gallo? Observe this opening sentence from Morrison's Chipotle cup:
I took my heart out and gave it to a writer made heartless by fame, someone who needed it to pump blood into veins desiccated by the suck and roar of crowds slobbering or poisoning or licking up the red froth they mistake for happiness because happiness looks just like a heart painted on a valentine cup or tattooed on an arm that has never held a victim or comforted a hurt friend.
Beautifully written, but wildly unappetizing. The following savory quotes would have made much more sense on a Chipotle cup. They may not mention burritos by name, but they'll definitely get you thinking about dinner.
1. Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.
2. Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote
...let me eat, or else take your government again; for an office that will not afford a man his victuals is not worth two beans.
3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
4. Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales
Well loved he garleek, oynons, and eek lekes. And for to drinken strong wyn, reed as blood.
5. Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance
After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
6. Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own
One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
7. Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
I will marry you if you promise not to make me eat eggplant.
8. Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse
The cook had spent three days over that dish. And she must take great care, Mrs. Ramsay thought, diving into the soft mass, to choose a specially tender piece for William Bankes. And she peered into the dish, with its shiny walls and its confusion of savoury brown and yellow meats and its bay leaves and its wine . . . ‘It is a triumph,’ said Mr. Banks, laying his knife down for a moment. He had eaten attentively. It was rich; it was tender. It was perfectly cooked.
9. Eric Carle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar
On Saturday, he ate through one piece of chocolate cake, one ice cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie, one sausage, one cupcake, and one slice of watermelon. That night he had a stomach ache.