Our man Mike Pyle tackles Mission Burrito El TripleBy Mike Pyle
August 09, 2012
Over the last couple of years, millions of people have been glued to their TVs while they watched a tubby man tour America, tell bad jokes, and eat enormous meals.
On the face of it, it doesn’t sound as if Man Vs Food has much going for it – but it has become a cult hit all over the world.
The premise, for those who have managed to miss it, is that Adam Richman travels the States taking on the eating challenges which seem to be a staple of American dining. Whether it’s a sink full of ice cream, bowls of super hot chilli, or burgers the size of bin lids (sorry, trash can lids), he has a go at anything.
Such is the success of the show that it was only a matter of time until eating challenges made their way to this country and to Reading.
As a man with a substantial appetite and little dignity, I jumped at the chance to have a go at Reading’s first eating challenge – especially with it being at Mission Burrito, one of my favourite Reading eateries.
Mission Burrito is a small chain of five outlets, including one on the Oracle’s Riverside, founded by Jan Rasmussen after he came back from living in San Francisco’s Mission district, famous for its Mexican food.
Jan realised that traditional Mexican food was hard to come by in this country and promptly set up Mission Burrito.
As its name suggests, Mission Burrito’s speciality is burritos – flour tortillas filled with meat, rice, beans, spicy sauces and more. It has a delicious selection and is well worth a visit for a quick lunch.
However, I was not there for a quick lunch when I visited. I was there to take on Mission’s new eating challenge – El Triple.
El Triple is a formidable beast; three 12in tortillas placed end-to-end, filled with 3lbs of meat, three portions of rice, three portions of beans, sauce and cheese to create a monstrous two foot-long burrito.
I was told all this a couple of days before the challenge but, as a child of the metric generation, the idea of 3lbs of meat and all the rest didn’t actually faze me as I had no great concept of what that would look like.
It was only when a friend said ‘three pounds?! That’s, like, 12 quarter pounder burgers’ that the enormity of the task really dawned on me.
As such, it was with considerable nerves that I met Jan, who was doing the El Triple challenge with me, outside Mission Burrito.
I’d done my best to prepare – I’d drunk plenty of water to stretch my stomach and only had a smoothie for breakfast, but, as I watched the girl behind the counter preparing my lunch, I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing.
I was further shocked when the burrito was handed to me and I felt the weight of it in my arms. It was like holding a small dog.
Jan and I sat outside on the riverfront in full view of the public and started our gargantuan meals.
The task was initially made easier by the fact that my burrito was delicious. I chose to have it filled with ‘carnitas’ – slow-cooked pork seasoned with bay, thyme, and orange zest – with chipotle salsa, Monterey Jack cheese, basmati rice and black beans.
I chopped my giant lunch into three portions in an effort to reduce the scale of the meal in front of me and the first of the three sections went down easily. The sweet, moist meat with the tangy sauce, rich beans and fresh lettuce was a joy.
The second part wasn’t too much of a challenge but, as I screwed up the foil and looked at the third and final section, I began to realise that things were about to get difficult.
I started to feel heavy. Everything started to feel heavy. I picked up the last part of my lunch and it felt like I was lifting a brick. A brick that was taunting me by being so delicious.
I took a deep breath and carried on eating but, with every bite, my foe just seemed to get bigger. Was I hallucinating?
“It just won’t get any smaller,” I wailed at Jan, only to realise that, while I still had an ever-growing beast in my hand, Jan had just finished his.
At that point, giving up stopped being an option. It took me a further 20 minutes of nibbling my burrito, occasionally hoping that if I stared at it long enough I’d develop the power to destroy it with laser beams from my eyes like Superman, to finally finish it.
It was tough, but the pride at the end was worth it. As I donned my prize – a Lucho Libre Champion T-shirt – and put a sticker bearing my name on the roll of champions, I felt something similar to what our Team GB heroes must have been feeling over the last week and a bit.
I was proud, satisfied and am still prone to hyperbole when I talk about it.
Mission Burrito launched the El Triple challenge a few weeks ago and Jan says they have been surprised by its popularity. He estimates there is about a 60 per cent success rate and says they will let people take home what they can’t manage.
For those who want a challenge but think the £15 El Triple might be a bit big for them, there is also the £10 El Doble, which is two-thirds the size of its big brother, although that is a bit of a cop out. And you don’t get a T-shirt for finishing it.
If you’ve ever watched Man Vs Food and thought ‘I could do that’ get down to Mission and put your money where your mouth is.