Arizona Chimichanga: Fried Burritos From a State that Deserves its Freedom

The 50 Plates tour continues with the deep-fried pride of the Copper State at Taqueria Portland

 Summer is road-trip season, so we're taking a culinary tour of America. But because Portland is a city of immigrants from other states, we don't have to leave town to do it. We're traveling to 50 Portland restaurants to try one distinctive food from each state. Our 50 Plates tour continues with a chimichanga from Arizona, which joined the union on February 14, 1912.

The state: Arizona, the last patch of the contiguous U.S. to be granted statehood. Things have gone poorly since. Inside Arizona, there are elected officials who want to revoke the terms of Arizona’s statehood and other officials there have very little interest in following the constitution the rest of us agreed to.

Outside Arizona, some have recently suggested we give the state back to Mexico.

I lived in Arizona for four years. Some of my best friends are Arizonans. And on this issue, I side with Arizona.

The state’s return to sovereignty seems like the best solution for everyone involved. The United States should acknowledge the claims of small town Arizona Republicans who say the terms of the state’s admission to the union were improper, and grant the people their freedom. President Brewer could do then whatever she wants with any illegal immigrants found there. Including you or I—if we wanted to travel to Arizona we’d need the proper papers. No visa? Tough luck us.

The rest of the U.S. could then use the money currently earmarked for the state of Arizona—far more money than most states get from the Feds—to help those poor migrant kids.

However, I would also propose the other 49 states extend Coconino County, Arizona’s gorgeous northernmost county—where the Grand Canyon sits and which supported Obama over Romney—the right to re-join the union if it wishes. It would then get the same rights and privileges as old Arizona. Including, of course, water rights not claimed by any part of our country that's downriver. As is the current situation in Sonora, Mexico, the SRP would be welcome to any water from Coconino/New Arizona that flows into its territory. Arizona is free! And, with the consent of residents, the U.S. of A will keep Coconino County as our own. The newly sovereign lands south of the Mogollon Rim get control of all formerly federal land and no longer have to pay federal taxes.

Everyone’s happy, right? Let’s do this.

The food: We’ll miss you most of all, chimichanga. Pima County, home of liberal Tucson, where the chimichanga was probably invented, would likely be happy to rejoin the union if approached. But that would just be weird. Sorry, Tucson, you belong with Phoenix and Glendale and Mesa in a sovereign land ruled by Jan Brewer. We will keep the recipe for your famous deep-fried burrito, and when we eat it we might get a little sad and miss you—not enough to call or anything, but, you know, a little.

Other foods considered and rejected: People outside Sonora del Norte might hold onto Phoenix a little tighter if they'd experienced machaca from Carolina's or a Sonoran hot dog from the Nogales cart on Indian School and the 51. I will miss them enough to apply for a visa every year or two, and would be happy to visit in October or March if Arizona will have me as a guest.

Get it from: Taqueria Portland (820 SE 8th Ave., 232-7000), a surprising little taqueria that recently moved from St. John's down to the Grand Central Bowling building, where it sits next to the Growler Guys. If refused entry to the nation of Sonora del Norte/Old Arizona, I'd console myself with an excellent chimichanga, super-hot chile de arbol salsa and a Telemundo program set on a barge floating along in Xochimilco. The tortilla shell is delicate and golden brown, cracking like an egg when tapped with a fork. Inside, cheese and smoky barbacoa. I don't eat that many chimichangas, but it was quite good, and made me excited to dig deeper into the menu here. Sure, there's Mexican food this good on pretty much every corner in Phoenix. But, if we implement a plan to to grant Arizona the freedom it so richly deserves, that could change. After all, Mexicans would likely flee Phoenix for the United States, leaving people there without the annoyances that come from living near people who are different from themselves, and giving places like Portland the little booster shot of culture we need on this front.

Click on the map to see each state's distinctive food and where to get it in Portland.

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