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Holinger: Learning the Chipotle lingo

Now that you’ve had your fill of turkey, it’s time for Chipotle.

Chipotle. Hear the word and saliva pours from your mouth, down your chin and onto your Dockers. A bountiful burrito sits before you, the soft, fat, steaming hybrid of appetizer, salad, veggie and meat, the many rolled into the one, a Buddhist’s dream food.

Throw in guacamole and chips and a lime-lipped
Corona, and you’ve got
nirvana on a tray.

Chipotle is today’s hot restaurant (and I don’t mean spicy; I’ll get to that later), in part, because of its environmental-friendly reputation. Its website reveals its pork comes from pigs “raised outside or in deeply bedded pens,” antibiotic free and fed a vegetarian diet. The company buys from “family farmers who respect the land and the animals in their care.”

Folks like me, passing middle age faster than a Maserati blowing off a Smart car, enjoy the restaurant, but it’s the younger generation you mostly see in line. My daughter, Molly, studying in France this semester, after visiting Paris’ Chipotle, reviewed it like a professional food critic.

“It’s not as good as ours,” she reported. “They have whole wheat burritos. Their rice doesn’t have as much lime or cilantro. The cheese is

See what I mean? I thought cilantro was the final ingredient in a Rusty Nail.

I must admit to mixed feelings about the establishment. Oh, it’s not them, it’s me. See, I don’t do spicy. To me, on a scale from one to 10, mild to spicy hot, ketchup scores a 9.8.

Going through the buffet line picking out burrito fillings, I preface each choice with, “How spicy is it, one being cool as mountain-fed spring water, 10 being a Guadalajara red jalapeno pepper that melts tongues?”

When assured “mild” by the server, sometimes I detect a smile, but maybe that’s just me. So, I request lettuce, tomato, brown beans, corn something-or-other – you know the drill. I sit down and bite into the wrapped feast.

One of two things happens. Either I taste flavors mild as a cupcake or something commensurate to a ground-zero nuclear detonation.

Why is that? Is there someone in the kitchen pocketing a bottle of Tabasco sauce who now and then drips flame-red drops into the innocent corn salad? Does he watch through a window as my face turns scarlet, then snickers when I blow my nose and sponge tear-drenched cheeks?

I kid, of course. I’m sure the spice discrepancy is owing to my fear of losing taste buds to an errant chopped red pepper.

At least I’m conversant with the Chipotle lingo. Next, I need to learn to talk Starbucks.
After that, who knows? Maybe I’ll ask my 23-year-old son to teach me the names of today’s hippest shots. That way, I can walk into Stockholm’s and order with just the right amount of pomposity, “A Superman, Snow Shoe, and a Cherry Tootsie Pop, barkeep!” and not sound like a lunatic on his way to the movie theater in a non-existent blizzard with stolen Halloween candy.

Now that would be oh, so cool.

• Rick Holinger has lived and taught high school in the Fox Valley for more than 30 years. His prose and poetry have appeared in several national literary journals. His forthcoming book, “Not Everybody’s Nice,” won the 2012 Split Oak Press Prose Chapbook contest. Contact him at

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