The story about a group of students at Johns Hopkins University’s Whiting School of Engineering inventing edible tape for burritos has been hitting all the news outlets. They call it “Tastee Tape” (using the unconventional spelling to go for the trademark, no doubt), and it’s made of “food-grade fibrous scaffold and an organic adhesive that melts in the mouth.” Mmmm. I do love a good fibrous scaffold.
Name and description aside, I have to ask … is this really a problem people have?
I’ve eaten many burritos in my years on this planet. And I’ve certainly had a few that have fallen apart on me — but usually from the bottom, not the wrapped side. In my experience (which is quite vast), burrito fails are usually due to 1) overstuffing of ingredients, 2) a defect in the tortilla, or 3) a subpar job of wrapping. But I don’t think any burrito I’ve eaten has ever split along the side where it had been wrapped. Usually, my hand is there holding that part together.
But even if the wrapped side happens to be a burrito’s point of failure, one strip of tape probably isn’t going to solve that problem. If a burrito is going to fail, it’s going to fail. You’d likely need to tape the whole edge of the wrapper shut.
On top of that, a good many of the burritos I’ve encountered have arrived to me already wrapped in paper or foil. Sure, you can unwrap said burrito entirely to eat it, but then any resulting mess is entirely the fault of the eater. Instead, if you just unwrap the first third to begin consumption and continue unwrapping as needed you’ll find there’s very little mess. Though an argument could be made that increased use of Tastee Tape could cut down on the need for paper and foil wrappers.
I also wonder about the intention of how a person would interact with this product. Is this a thing meant for home use? That makes a modicum of sense. Or is the idea that you carry a roll or sheet or whatever of Tastee Tape with you, and in case you decide to pick up a burrito, just peel off a section of tape, give it a lick (because it has to be moistened to be effective), and slap it onto the tortilla?
In any case, a trip to Chuy’s in San Diego — where one of my kids called the burritos “cat-sized” — will really put this product to the test.
Although the invention of the modern burrito is credited to one Juan Méndez, a street vendor in Chihuahua, Mexico in 1910, humans have using tortillas to wrap foods for thousands of years. So we as a species seem to have muddled through millennia of burrito-eating just fine without any sort of adhesive. If you have a problem with messy burritos, you can always carry a portable set of cutlery.
TL;DR — Tastee Tape is a solution in search of a problem. But it’s a fun food gimmick for some.
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