Monday, January 21, 2013

The Legend of Breakfast Beeritos, Part 1

Legend has it ...

... in 1912, a band of rebels fighting in the Mexican Revolution under the leadership of Pascual Orozco advanced pushed forward and prepared for a key battle on the outskirts of Mexicali. The troops were in good spirits, but exhausted, and running out of rations. The Treaty of Ciudad Juarez was fresh in everyone's minds, and they knew that the next day's conflict will be decisive.

Spent from a day of travel and evening of battle planning, the platoon was sloppy packing their supplies, and failed to store them in a secure location in the camp. A humble 17-year-old, Jose Roberto Oppermanza, made the fatal mistake of storing tortilla shells, eggs, potatoes, onions, shredded cheese, and four half-consumed bottles of cerveza in what could have been the worst possible spot in camp -- directly behind Patriciarita, a beautiful but dull burro.

The next morning, mayhem! Patriciarita had knocked over the rations!

"Mal burro! Mal burro! No me gusta!" shouted Victoriano Huerta, the burro's master. The raw ingredients lay in a mess on the ground, ants and raccoons frolicking in the unexpected feast. The men were frantic. Where would they get the strength for the push on Mexicali?

"Pero espara!" cried Jose Roberto, who noticed that some of the food had spilled into a skillet and was simmering over a dying fire. Famished, the young solider reached in, pushed the good together in the tortilla with his dirty, gunpowder-stained fingers, and wrapped it up.

Placing it in his mouth ... magic! Taste overwhelmed young Jose. He had left his home in Orizaba 95 days ago, and dearly missed his mother's cooking. But this happy accident was a gift from heaven. He shared his happy accident with his platoonmates, with Huerta, and finally Orozco. (Not with Patriciarita, though; the true catalyst for this culinary breakthrough was left with her usual breakfast of oats and warm water.)

Oppermanza's platoon won the battle of Mexicali, which proved to be a turning point in the Revolution. The morning's meal, later dubbed the Beerito, was given full credit. Oppermanza was awarded the Mexican equivalent of the Medal of Honor for his discovery.

As he lived out his days as a celebrity solider, Oppermanza toured the country, making Breakfast Beeritos for his fellow citizens. Yet he never revealed the full recipe.

Coming tomorrow: Part 2

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