Eating at Chipotle solo is an experience many of us share. Even Jonathan Safran Foer—the acclaimed novelist of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close—does it. The vegetarian author was sitting down at a Chipotle one day when he realized that he didn’t bring any reading material with him, nor did he have a smartphone. So he decided to fix that problem by putting his own writing on the restaurant tableware.
Well, his own writing, plus stories from literary lights like Malcolm Gladwell, Toni Morrison, George Saunders, and Michael Lewis. “I bet a shitload of people go into your restaurants every day, and I bet some of them have very similar experiences,” Safran-Foer wrote to Chipotle’s CEO Steve Ells. “They could have a positive experience if they had access to some kind of interesting text.” Hence the fiction and non-fiction tales being printed on Chipotle cups and bags. Rather than proselytizing for carnitas burritos, which he doesn’t consume, “What interested me is 800,000 Americans of extremely diverse backgrounds having access to good writing,” the novelist told Vanity Fair.
Safran-Foer writes a “Two-Minute Personality Test” that prompts the burrito-eater with a series of evocative and rather uncomfortable questions (that you might not want to think about while eating). Toni Morrison contributes a writerly romance described in a prose poem. Michael Lewis writes about our experience of time (as he and the reader eat a burrito, presumably).
Reading while eating is great and all, but it has to be the right kind of literature for the food. Magazine articles—great. Postmodern flash fiction experiments? Probably not so much. Grapes of Wrath doesn’t describe a snack, after all.