Next time you dine at Chipotle Mexican Grill, you’ll get a complimentary side of literature since American-Jewish author Jonathan Safran Foer has gone from editing haggadot to… editing paper cups.
Foer, the editor of the New American Haggadah and author of “Everything is Illuminated” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” has partnered with the fast casual dining chain to publish interesting short pieces of literature on its paper cups and take-out bags.
Vanity Fair reports the notion to cover Chipotle’s disposables with text occurred to him as he was dining at one of the chain’s locations and was caught without any reading material. “I really just wanted to die with frustration,” he told the magazine.
It seems this frustration was the mother of invention and Foer contacted Chipotle CEO Steve Ells by email with his idea.
“I bet a shitload of people go into your restaurants every day, and I bet some of them have very similar experiences, and even if they didn’t have that negative experience, they could have a positive experience if they had access to some kind of interesting text,” the author suggested.
Ells agreed and decided to launch the initiative, which Chipotle has branded, “Cultivating Thought.” Foer served as editor for the series, which includes contributions from Malcolm Gladwell, Toni Morrison, George Saunders, and Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Lewis, in addition to a piece by Foer himself titled “The Two-Minute Personality Test.”
“I tried to put together a somewhat eclectic group, in terms of styles. I wanted some that were essayistic, some fiction, some things that were funny, and somewhat thought provoking,” Foer told Vanity Fair.
It is surprising that Foer, whose book “Eating Animals” is about deciding to become vegetarian and is an indictment of food production in America, is working with the meat-serving Chipotle.
Chipotle is not vegetarian, but the chain’s Food With Integrity mission dictates it mainly uses organic produce and naturally raised meat. This, along with the fact that the sizable company parted ways with McDonald’s (which became a major investor in 1998 but completely divested by 2006), was enough to convince Foer to move ahead with the project.
Ultimately, it wasn’t food sustainability that moved Foer to offer up a side of literature with a Chipotle burrito. Rather, he wanted people to chew on the fact that there is inequality in access to high-quality reading material.
“…What interested me is 800,000 Americans of extremely diverse backgrounds having access to good writing. A lot of those people don’t have access to libraries, or bookstores. Something felt very democratic and good about this,” he said.