One of things about food that I most enjoy is trying to recreate the various moments when I “got it”. By “got it”, I mean understanding the essence of a particular food as well as the context in which I enjoyed it. I still recall with stunning clarity the moment when I understood cheese, or the time I had fresh salmon, or the occasion that led to being able to discern the nuances of tea. Everytime I’ve revisited those foods since those epiphanies, I’ve compared my current experiences to those specific moments of my life.
Attaining a level of equal bliss in some experiences has been quite difficult for some foods. Not that this has stopped me from trying, but these difficulties have settled quite nicely into my own ever-expanding fields of neuroses.
Take tacos for example.
Some foodies readily dismiss the taco (and most street food) as either mundane or common or even both. I heartily disagree. I’m of the belief that every food has the opportunity of bringing a level of joy, if even for a moment, that makes the consumer of the food the happiest person on the face of the earth.
For me, tacos can provide that level bliss. But the following variables need to be in place:
- - The corn tortillas have to be crisp and fresh (flour tortillas are lacking on so many levels)
- - The beef, ground or otherwise, has to be hot and spicy, not dry and tasteless.
- - The tomatoes need to be fresh and sweet, not the styrofoam indsutrialized ones that we’ve been seeing of late.
- - The cheese needs to be sharp and balanced.
- - The lettuce needs to be crunchy and distinct.
- - The beer needs to be frosty cold, crisp and lager. The beer, can be optional, but tacos are vastly improved by it.
If all of these items are in place, the first bite of the taco, followed by a quick drink of beer is as equal in sensory ecstasy as a perfectly fried egg or the triumph of a foie gras en terrine au sauternes.
But if one or two of these items are off, then the joy I was looking for never arrives, never even knocks on the door. The tacos then return to the state of being common and mundane, but only because they were created poorly. Herein lies the problem.
When confronted with an opportunity to re-create a moment of bliss, does one risk the many variables needed to get the perfect taste of bliss, or does one try for something new? Often times I opt for the latter. Only if I have faith in the people behind the counter will I dare take that leap for culinary joy.
All of this speaks to my own neurosis. I have no idea if people put this much thought into choosing restaurants or ordering from a menu. But it does cement my belief that all food has that potential for happiness.