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Chicagoland Teen's Essay Appears On Chipotle Cups And Bags

By Sarah Gouda in Food on Apr 20, 2016 2:18PM

Anam Adil (inlay) and a cup from the Cultivating Thought series (via Facebook and Chipotle)

Even before Chipotle recognized fast-casual Mexican food's power to cause a modestly-sized E.coli epidemic, they recognized its power to induce a state of deep, existential contemplation. So they launched their Cultivating Thought Author Series back in 2014 as a way to facilitate philosophizing. For those who aren't immediately like "oh yeah, the Cultivating Thought Author Series," it's the program that brings you the stories and quotes you read on Chipotle's bags and cups.

Though Chipotle extras are most often printed with the words of accomplished writers of stage, screen and literature—from Toni Morrison to Aziz Ansari—one of the stories you can read on Chipotle gear as of Monday comes from local teenager Anam Adil. The 15-year-old Downers Grove North student was among 10 winners of Chipotle's fourth Cultivating Thought essay contest, judged by Jonathan Safran Foer. For her preternatural writing skills, Adil will receive a $20,000 scholarship and get her words read by carnitas-loving people all over the country.

Adil's submission, titled "Two Minutes and Trifle Cake," is joyful and restrained and insightful all at once. The story recounts an outing she took with a woman named Ms. Paula, a resident of the nursing home Adil volunteers at once a week. "You know Humans of New York? Like, how he goes around taking pictures but he can tell such a deep story in a few words? That was my inspiration. I think that's what got me to write it," she told Chicagoist.

Adil added that the win was a happy surprise. "I was 14 when I submitted my essay, that was over a year ago. I didn't tell that many people, just my close friends and family. None of my teachers."

Though she obviously possesses a talent for storytelling, Adil is noncommittal about pursuing a writing career. "It's something I've liked to do. I've always been writing little mini stories and personal entries, but I don't think it's something I want to pursue," she said. As far as her future goes, she's simply focused on leading her school's Model U.N. team next year and plans to continue studying mathematics, her favorite subject.

You can catch the multi-talented student's story next time you're mid-burrito bowl, or read it below:

Every Saturday I woke up at 8:00 a.m. to go visit Ms. Paula at the nursing home across the street. She was a wrinkled old lady, with an ego as big as a ten-scoop ice cream cone. She was not one to express emotion, but one of the workers there told me there was one day every year where you would see Ms. Paula letting her guard down. I had seen it; it was on June 7th. I could see streaks where the continuous tear drops had fallen. I never asked her why. I stayed till after dinner; one of the nurses had brought a slice of cake for dessert. She took a bite and her eyes closed as if she were dreaming a great dream.

Ms. Paula looked up at me and said, "You know, kid, if you ever get the chance, go to the little bakery on the corner of 55th Street and ask for a slice of trifle cake. The next time you come back here, you tell me how it was. Alright? Now go home.”

The following Saturday I took Ms. Paula out. Out to that little bakery. She got in her wheelchair and I walked beside her. We arrived, and she ordered. As soon as the two plates were brought to our table, there was the widest grin I had ever seen on that lady. She dove in and the look of relief on her face was unforgettable.

She told me, "You know, kid, June 7th was the day my husband and I got married, I was pregnant at the time and was having the greatest craving a pregnant woman can have. So, Joe sneaks into the kitchen, gets our wedding cake and brings it to me. Five minutes before the ceremony begins we are sitting on the floor, our faces covered in cake, just laughing. This cake was that exact same one.”

The tears all made sense now, and Ms. Paula’s memory of food had given me the greatest memory that food can create.