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Katie and Chipotle: A Love Story

Today begins what I affectionately refer to as the August Rush. (Not to be confused with the movie of the same name. Good movie, GREAT music score) To me the August Rush refers to those crazy few weeks in which school suddenly seems close enough that I have to entertain (not dwell on, just entertain) the thought of coming up with ideas, plans, and bulletin boards for the coming year but also far enough away that I want to squeeze every last drop of sun, fun, and friends as I can during these waning summer days. I’m deep in the heart of that right now…I had to close my planner yesterday because just looking at it made my head spin. So as I embark on 3 weeks of “last-drops-of-summer-break” squeezing, I must forewarn you that will probably mean less frequent posts. Then again, you never know. Sometimes exciting things happen that just need to be shared. One such event unfolded this past week. Get excited.
It seems hard to believe but it was only 3 years ago that I was finally introduced to the magic that is a Chipotle burrito. In the time since, Chipotle has certainly earned itself a prime place in my heart. In fact I had already told several people to prepare themselves for a Chipotle-catered rehearsal dinner one day. I mean delicious food, so many choices that everyone is bound to be pleased, AND everyone will end up feeling so stuffed they may not eat for another 24 hours, what more do you need?? Well, maybe everyone wearing these (http://www.zazzle.com/pi_love_tee_shirts-235741924053722449). But regardless. (Yes, I know, this is the same girl who gave you the independent, “I don’t need a co-pilot” speech last time…I still let myself dream once in awhile 🙂 )
As my food intolerance list grew during the spring, there were few things that remained stable in my life. I even had to briefly stop drinking coffee. (I shudder just thinking about it.) But Chipotle? That was always there. An oasis of delicious, allergy-safe options. Sure, I had to change my order, first to burrito bowls without the flour-filled wraps, then minus the cheese once dairy was out of the picture, but still I was always in my glory there. Safe, filling food AND I could even eat their corn chips! They have a dedicated fryer (unlike Qdoba). Can you see why a little piece of my heart belongs to the lovely folks at Chipotle??
That’s right…a dedicated fryer means gluten-free chips 🙂
Well, obviously the “no-more-corn” news threw me for a loop. No more perfectly-salted/hint-of-limed tortilla chips for this girl. But I comforted myself with the thought of a delicious heaping burrito bowl. Until I pulled up their allergen information just to double check (in my mind thinking, you never know where corn could be hiding).  I was greeted by my favorite allergen info greeting:
“No matter what your unique dietary needs are, Chipotle has options for you. Unless you have an allergy to delicious food, in which case, we might have an issue”- Chipotle
“So funny Chipotle, thank goodness I don’t have an allergy to that yet”, I chuckled to myself as I read on to find the convenient allergen chart. Well, at that moment my poor Chipotle-loving heart sank to the floor: SOY. There is soybean oil EVERYWHERE. There were literally only 3 safe options left for me: romaine lettuce, salsa, and guacamole. Not even rice!! How does one make a meal out of that?? (http://www.chipotle.com/enus/menu/special_diet_information/special_diet_information.aspx)
So, just like that, I said my sad farewell to Chipotle. I gave away my remaining coupons and gift cards (a true perk of being a teacher) and embarked on a Chipotle-free existence. In a strange way, it somewhat resembled an unforeseen break-up: I insisted to myself (and others) that I was better off this way, that it was all part of some greater plan. I didn’t need them. I would create my own version and I would show them! After a few hours on Pinterest and few decent attempts at recreating my own, I had come up with something that was not quite the same but certainly fulfilled my needs to an acceptable point. I could go days, even weeks sometimes, without thinking about Chipotle but I also knew it was lurking somewhere in the back of my mind. And every once in awhile, out of the blue: there it was. I would think about it…or drive past and stare longingly. But I was moving on with my life and I would someday give that once-dedicated-to-Chipotle piece of my heart to something else.
Then just like the pivotal moment of your favorite chick flick (you know when the crowd parts and the long-lost love returns to admit he or she was wrong and beg for forgiveness), Chipotle made an announcement. Cue the sappy music: Chipotle has not only decided to identify all GMO ingredients (genetically-modified-organisms…AKA unnatural) (http://www.chipotle.com/en-us/menu/ingredients_statement/ingredients_statement.aspx) BUT they’re also working to eliminate them. What does that mean exactly?? Well, thanks to my new friend Nathan at Chipotle Customer Relations I can tell you.
     1)   It means all soybean oil used in the fryers for corn chips and taco shells is switching to all-natural SUNFLOWER oil. Granted this doesn’t help me because everything in the fryer contains corn, but for the rest of my soy-intolerance comrades out there, start celebrating. Those perfect chips are once again yours. Or at least they will be. All stores should be finished with the switch by September 1. At least that’s the plan, call your specific store and ask.
      2)   Brace yourselves: It also means that ALL soybean oil will eventually be replaced by rice bran oil. RICE!!!! A food on my safe list!!!!! Assuming my body decides to stay on the same team as me from now on, Chipotle can once again be mine!!  Someday in the not-too-distant future. Am I ready to forgive them?? ABSOLUTELY. Will I rely on them as much as I once did? Probably not. I’ll still make my own more cost-effective (and I’m sure healthier) version at home but I will certainly go back to treating myself on occasion.  Now of course the question of when this glorious reunion will take place is a complicated one. Almost all stores in the New York City Metropolitan area have already made the switch. (Can you say road trip??)
After a follow-up chat with my new friend Nathan, I learned that the plan is to eventually make this switch chainwide. However, he doesn’t know the timeline or the order of markets…or at least he claims he doesn’t. I’m a little skeptical. So I posed the question, “Well, Nathan, is there any way that I can somehow get the Baltimore area to move up closer to the top of that list?? We are a great city. Or I’ll even settle for DC…that’s an easy drive. How can you say no to the nation’s capital??” Again, Nathan claims to have no knowledge of how I can get this to happen…but he assured me that he’ll be in touch if he finds out. In which case, you will all be hearing from me so we can start the “Bring Rice Bran Oil to Baltimore” campaign in full force.  Consider yourself warned 🙂
So in short, my love affair with Chipotle is back on. Or at least it will be in due time. (And theoretically so is my rehearsal dinner…better add Chipotle-lover to that co-pilot description!) Until the day of my glorious reunion with Chipotle, please go support them. Show them your love and enjoy your heaping bowl/burrito of deliciousness and a side of those perfectly salted/hint-of-limed chips.

Also, I just have to share this excerpt from the email they sent me today. I always knew deep down that the feeling was mutual…ah yes, the joy of requited love 🙂

That’s right…they love me too 🙂

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