Jonathan Safran Foer brings literature to Chipotle cups (really)

Jonathan Safran Foer, left, has put stories by Michael Lewis, Malcolm Gladwell and Toni Morrison on cups at Chipotle.
Jonathan Safran Foer, left, has put stories by Michael Lewis, Malcolm Gladwell and Toni Morrison on cups at Chipotle.
(Warner Bros.; T.J. Kirkpatrick / Getty Images; Hachette; Patrick Kovarik / AFP/Getty Images)

Here’s how the story goes: Novelist Jonathan Safran Foer found himself at Chipotle with nothing to read. No magazine, no book, no smartphone. “I really just wanted to die with frustration,” he told Vanity Fair.

From his frustration to Chipotle Chief Executive Steve Ells’ ears, and next thing you know, Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison’s stories are appearing on Chipotle drinking cups.

That’s some seriously good reading.

It’s not the first time disposable drinking cups have been used to communicate stories. In the 1970s, brightly colored children’s Dixie Cups were decorated with corny jokes. In the early 2000s, East Coast doughnut chain Bess Eaton put text from the Bible on its cups. California burger favorite In-N-Out cites biblical verses on its cups: John 3:16 on sodas, Proverbs 3:5 on shakes.


Chipotle is calling its stories-on-cups series “Cultivating Thought.” In addition to Morrison’s story, there are pieces by Michael Lewis, Malcolm Gladwell, George Saunders, and Foer himself.

“I selected the writers, and insofar as there was any editing, I did it,” Foer told Vanity Fair. “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.”

Almost as soon as the story hit the Internet on Thursday, the commentary began. Some wondered what vegetarian Jonathan Safran Foer was doing in a fast-food restaurant, anyway? Others couldn’t help but poke fun at the idea on Twitter.

@johnwilliamsnyt: I saw the greatest minds of my generation (and a few others) write for burrito bags

@APublicSpace : Come on, Chipotle. Everyone knows what we really want is poems engraved on grains of rice.

@ElectricLit : The novel may be dead, but the Chipotle Cup literary short story lives

@alex_shephard: .@chipotle how do i get this thomas bernhard excerpt on a cup?

Athisisjendoll : i have never sat anywhere eating a burrito thinking “I want to read my cup,” but then, I’m not Jonathan Safran Foer

@SenileDonDraper : No no no you idiots. I said I wouldn’t read Ken Cosgrove’s story EVEN IF you put it on a Chipotle cup.

Some literati may snicker, but if a few thousand -- or hundred-thousand or more -- Chipotle customers who’ve never heard of Saunders, Gladwell et al wind up reading their stories, really, aren’t we all better off?