I won’t claim to be well travelled, but I have been fortunate to visit a nice enough chunk of countries to understand that people around the world eat things that I couldn’t possibly imagine.
This is not a good thing or a bad thing; it is merely a fact of life.
And sometimes cultures combine to invent new wonderful things, like Vietnamese food piled inside French baguettes. There’s a Japanese/Mexican restaurant around the corner from my office. I once had a meal at a French/Jamaican restaurant, which was delightful.
And it doesn’t apply only to the highbrow. On nearly every block on this city you can find some outpost selling you Pizza, Ice Cream, Schwarma, and Hotdogs all from the same counter. You don’t typically walk in there expecting a taste bud exploding culinary experience.
You go in there because you’re craving grease in your system and these outposts supply it.
But once in a while there is a combination that not only happens for unknown reasons, but proliferates. Something so disgusting and repulsive but also confusing that I think the universe just leaves it alone out of sheer bafflement.
I speak of the TexMex/Chinese restaurant on my block.
Those that live in New York will recognize what I’m talking about. I’m not sure it is fair to call it a ‘chain’ of TexMex/Chinese restaurants as much as just an incomprehensible collection of seemingly similar restaurants that all serve up the same indigestible food.
So as for our TexMex/Chinese ‘restaurant’ (and I don’t name it specifically because I’m almost positive they don’t actually have names on the awning aside from “Restaurant”), it’s not the pairing of foods that gets to me as much as the actual quality of it.
The main feature of their marketing is the fact that they serve this food there.
The most prominent marketing is the sentence on the window that says
Yea, because that was what was holding be back from walking in your door, the fear of MSG.
The reason I’m not purchasing anything from you is because the one and only time I did get something from you, well, it wasn’t a pleasant experience.
I will admit that I didn’t throw up or have any other type of bathroom disaster. Let’s just get that out of the way.
It should have been a key indicator that this establishment kept their delivery motorbike INSIDE the restaurant but I was hungry and low on options.
I walked in and took a look at the menu board above the counter. The menu was backlit but was so faded it looked like it had been absorbing sun rays for the last 50 years.
I remember being confused at the amount and disparity of the options. Lacking bravery and wanting to be full soon I went for a safe option. It was a quesadilla. But in retrospect it was really a “quesadilla.”
I thought that would be safe. Just tortillas, chicken, peppers, cheese. It’s so stupid a college kid could make it. I know this because in the 4.5 years I spent in Arizona I ate enough homemade quesadillas to decrease the amount of blood in my cheese stream.
I sat down at one of the beaten up booths and bit into my food reluctantly.
I won’t say that it tasted like cardboard. It actually did have taste. Lots of taste. That was the problem. I was tasting flavors I wouldn’t expect (or hope) to find in the middle of my quesadilla. It tasted of everything that had ever been cooked in that building. Ever.
Why did it taste like this? Did I order the wrong thing? Was everything on the menu supposed to taste like TexMex AND Chinese at the same time? Because that was happening. And not in a good way.
I’m not sure if the proprietors behind the counter could see the reaction on my face as I ate but whatever they saw couldn’t have surprised them.
Surely they must know their food tasted like this.
I would like to say that I stood up, reeled back and threw my tortilla in the face of the man behind the counter, but that’s not what happened.
I just ate the whole thing.
Sometimes, when I get confused, I make poor decisions.
You know how when you eat something delicious, as you chew and swallow it, and it slides down into your stomach, you can feel it actually quenching the hunger that affects you? Each bite satiates you a little bit more so that by the time that your done you feel like you have won the war on hunger.
This was not like this.
Every bite I swallowed didn’t feel like it made it to my stomach. It felt like the “food” just piled itself on top of itself at various points around my chest cavity. I didn’t feel like the food was actually doing anything. It just hung out. Like I was eating Legos.
I can only imagine the response of my insides as my TexMex/Chinese made it’s way inside.
What the hell is this? Rich! What are you doing? What are you putting in here? I don’t even recognize this? Did you melt rubber between two hubcaps and swallow it? Stop it. STOP DOING THIS!
That was 4 years ago. And part of me believes that some of that meal still exists undigested and tucked under a major artery.
I never ate at that, or similar establishments, again. I learned my lesson the hard way. And I like to say that you can’t put a price on knowledge.
But in this case I can. And it was 11 dollars.
Next time I’ll just save that money and eat my Legos.