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Death to Wraps

March 04, 1998|HUGO MARTIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The hearty little burrito is getting a bad wrap.

My favorite food package is being sold out, robbed of its cultural heritage by corporate America.

For several years now, restaurants have been trying to pawn off what is nothing more than a facsimile of a burrito by calling it a "wrap." Now the trend has reached critical mass. Everyone from Long John Silver to KFC to the assembly-line burrito purveyor Taco Bell is jumping on the wrap bandwagon. And, of course, there are restaurant chains--World Wraps, Wrapworks and Wrapsters, among them--that specialize in wraps.

My suspicion is that the wrap is a clever but devious marketing ploy that probably is making some loafer-wearing executive a nice chunk of change. After all, "wrap" sounds healthier, hipper and, let's admit it, less ethnic than a burrito.

But, in fact, they are the same thing. The wrap is simply the burrito's evil twin brother. Taco Bell's online menu describes its new wrap as a "soft flour tortilla filled with grilled steak (or chicken or veggies), roasted peppers and onions, seasoned rice, tomatoes, a blend of cheddar, pepper jack and mozzarella cheeses and fajita sauce."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday March 18, 1998 Home Edition Food Part H Page 2 Food Desk 1 inches; 19 words Type of Material: Correction
The correct address for "The Anti-Wrap Page" on the Internet ("Death to Wraps," March 4) is www.infobahn.com/pages/anti-wrap.html.

The definition of a burrito? Webster's New World Dictionary says: "burrito (boo reto) n., pl. tos: a Mexican dish consisting of a flour tortilla wrapped around a filling of meat, cheese, fried beans, etc."

It's a wrap. But the burrito came first.

"A wrap is certainly derived from a burrito," admits Thomas E. Metzger, president and CEO of the Florida-based two-restaurant company Wrapsters. "However, a burrito is traditionally a hot product and usually denotes a Mexican flair. Wraps are a little hot, a little cold, a little crunchy, a little soft and are more upscale in most cases."

Aha! He said "upscale." Proof that the time-honored burrito is a victim of classism.

Michael Bruns, manager of the El Pollo Loco in Lakewood, says the distinction between the wrap and the burrito is all about the filling: grilled chicken and romaine lettuce in a wrap instead of the burrito's shredded chicken and iceberg lettuce. And, he says, wraps use tortillas that are flavored with tomato and spinach.

"While you may not feel that these differences are significant enough to merit any distinction from burritos," Bruns says, "I would say it does."

In my opinion, even if you put caviar between two pieces of bread, it's still called a sandwich. And a tortilla filled with fancy grilled things is still a burrito.

I'm not alone in my opinions.

The motto of "The Anti-Wrap Page" on the Internet, (www.infobahn.com/pages.anti-wrap.html), aunched by like-minded people dedicated to the preservation of the threatened burrito, is simple: "Death to Wraps, Burritos Forever."

The Anti-Wrappers appear to be willing to go to violent extremes to put an end to the wrap.

"If a friend asks, 'Wanna go get a wrap?' " the site advises, "tell them, 'I'll give you a rap,' and strike them on the head with a wooden stick."

The site also suggests picketing local wrap stores with signs that read, "Hey, world: wrap this!"

Strong as I feel about this matter, I can't condone violence. Instead, I suggest burrito lovers reject the so-called wrappers by calling for a little truth in labeling. When ordering a cylindrical Mexican dish that includes any ingredients stuffed in a flour tortilla, call it what it is: a burrito.

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