Every now and then, we take a break from talking about the big things. Adult things. Family. Career. Real Estate. Morality. Mortality. Economy. Politics. Every now and then, we shove these serious things to the side, and talk about less consequential things. Like our favorite foods. Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite food is, I get very excited because this is one question for which I have an answer. A final one. One that does not waver.
I fell in love with nachos at Yale. In our first few days on campus, my best friend from high school and I went to Viva's, a hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint. The bartender was a big and friendly man. His name was Sponz. I think he liked that we were blonde and young. I think he got a kick out of the fact that we concocted far-fetched tales about how we were in medical school to appear older. I remember sliding into darkened booths with friends, new and old, and ordering nachos. We had already eaten some calorie-laden dinner of course, but this was college and old school rules about three meals a day didn't seem to apply. No. We sat there, talking and laughing and people-watching, soaked with an undeniably contagious optimism (and a wee bit of underage sangria). When the nachos came, we would dive in to the cheesy mess, pausing conversation just long enough to chew and swallow. And when those nachos were gone and that tray was blanketed with sad crumbs and beans and crusted cheese, we'd often giggle and order another. Just because.
This is one of the countless reasons college was so fun. It is also one of the reasons why most of us toted a few extra pounds. But somehow the extra campus padding was nothing more than a sign of happiness and enjoyment and life.
And then. Somewhere along the line, I stopped eating nachos. I graduated and entered the real world, a world where people stopped allowing themselves extra meals. And where people started going to more civilized restaurants and ordering slabs of steamed fish. Truth is I still ate my nachos here and there, but surreptitiously in those blurry late night hours. After a night out with the law school girls, or later with Husband, when I forced myself to stop worrying and be a college kid again.
Last night, Husband and I went on a date. We bought tickets for what seems to be a pretty universally-maligned chick flick Love Happens, heralded by many as Jennifer Aniston's latest debacle. We were quite rushed and didn't have time to hit a proper restaurant, to enjoy appetizers and mains, or savor a couple drinks. We stopped by Harry's Burritos en route to the theater. We perched at a tiny cocktail table while happy hour carried on around us. A football game blared at the bar and a big man barked at the screen between sips of margarita. It was hardly the romantic set-up. I didn't like this. I was, well, fussy.
Husband asked what I wanted to eat. And suddenly, I lit up inside. "Nachos!" I proclaimed. He was on it. He squeezed between people at the bar and ordered a plate of nachos. And he ordered himself a tequila and me a wine, but then I looked around me and decided wine was wrong. And I told him to get me a tequila too. And, moments later, we sat across from each other, vying for the best-piled tortilla chips, thin strings of cheese snapping between our fumbling hands. We sipped tiny glasses of tequila and talked and laughed. It felt like a first date. We marveled at the fact that Baby has started to say the word "happy" the same week I started my Positive Psychology class. We reveled in the fact that Toddler will not go anywhere without her Diego Rescue Pack. We daydreamed together about lazy mornings in our future home.
In record time, we devoured those nachos and made our way to the movie. And even though critics told us to hate this movie, even though they painstakingly pointed out all of the Hollywood cliches, we liked it. It was a fine movie with a happy ending. And after that happy ending, we left the theater holding hands. We strolled up Columbus, cuddling at red lights, taking it all in. The flashing lights and speeding cars and short skirts and mismatched couples. The mosaic of faces. I stopped at store windows and ogled sequin skirts and platform booties. We peered into packed restaurants. We saw things we'd never noticed before. The sad lobsters in the tank at the Chinese restaurant. The new tiny store that sells cheese and antiques. We watched a faux bar fight transpire in front of a pub. We listened to the city symphony: the snippets of rap music and laughter and debaucherous howls.
So. Much. Life.
And we stopped at Magnolia Bakery. And we bought pastel-frosted cupcakes. And as we waited to pay, I ordered banana pudding too. Because it looked good and sometimes it is wonderful to break the little rules. And as we walked North, I smiled as we hit 74th street and it occurred to me to look for that racy red bra. A random object left on a random city street that inspired me, and then so many of you, to dust off our imaginations. The bra wasn't there. And its absence caused me to concoct new stories. Who took that bra? A sanitation worker? A curious kid? A perverted man? A golden retriever?
And it occurred to me, as I savored insanely delicious banana pudding, that if we just open our eyes and look around, and up and down, there are so many stories. In every nook and cranny of life, there is something interesting to look at, to study, to know.
And it also occurred to me that it is these no frills nights that are the real gems. It's not the nights where we get gussied up and sip fine wine and flash lipstick smiles and have big talks about big things. It's not the black tie soirees or four-star restaurants where the best moments happen. It's the spontaneous nights. The ponytail nights in the neighborhood. The nights were we surrender a bit and forgo entrenched rules of civilization and sophistication and immerse ourselves in the noise of others and eat with our hands and drink tequila and talk about the little things that too often get lost in the shuffle. The nights where, despite babies and jobs and mortgages and life, we allow ourselves to be kids again. Where we inhale those proverbial nachos.
The nights where we are blissfully, unselfconsciously, ourselves again.
What's your all-time favorite food? The food that brings you back, makes you happy? What happened to that bra?