Chimichanga as Arizona's State Food? Five Foods to Put Up Against the Chimi


As if living here weren't embarrassing enough, it seems Macayo's has started an advertising campaign a petition drive to make the chimichanga Arizona's official state food.

Really?! It's still unclear that the deep-fried burrito can even claim its origins in Arizona (at least, the Tucson/Phoenix battle continues to sizzle -- even in the pages of the New York Times late last year, in a story that sounded a lot like one we published in 2007 and even at that, the thing might have been born in northern Mexico).

We conducted a completely unscientific poll, and were met with a lot of eye rolling when we mentioned the idea of anointing the chimi.

If we're really gonna go whole hog and name an official state food, let's do it right. We admit it's not as easy as it looks, coming up with just the right food to rep our state. Here are some suggestions.

Get the list after the jump.  

We sort of liked this idea till we learned that South Dakota named fry bread (aka Indian fry bread) its official state bread in 2005. Shucks. The Navajo taco might be a better bet but even that one has suspect origins.

4. I'itoi Onion

The name's not as much fun to say as "chimichanga," but this little onion dates back to the 17th Century here in Arizona, and the Tohono O'Oodham tribe considers it sacred. Here are some places you can buy them; we've read that they're pretty easy to grow.

Researchers claim you can inhibit cancer and treat everything from diabetes to a hangover with the fruit of this cactus. We don't know about that, but we do enjoy prickly pear fruit syrup, jam and even vodka.

2. Indigenous ingredients

Citrus may be one of the state's "5 C's" but Arizona can hardly claim it. (Try Asia -- here's some fascinating history.) If you really want to go native (or a lot closer), says Chow Bella contributor Erica O'Neil, go with "squash, beans and corn." O'Neil writes our "Taco the Town" column, but her day job is as an anthropologist. In other words, she knows her beans.

O'Neil explains: "The Hohokam used to grow all three in the same field because the corn would act as a stalk for the beans to climb up, and the squash would be at ground level. Don't forget mesquite bean flour, either! Pretty much anything Kai makes covers this."

1. Sonoran Hot Dog

Now, this one will be controversial (a la the chimichanga) in that no one's quite sure where it was invented. Some say northern Mexico, others southern Arizona. But just about everyone we spoke to in preparing this piece agreed that a bacon-wrapped hot dog out of a truck is a more authentic Arizona food experience than a chimi from a chain. Here's a super 2009 story from NPR out of Tucson about the Sonoran Hot Dog.

Click here to cast your vote for Arizona's Official State Food.

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at