Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Love at First Bite

Is there anything better than that first bite of pizza, that first sip of champagne, or that first crunch into a Cheeto?

We spend the rest of our bites trying to recapture the glorious rush of flavor of that first one, the thing that made the difference between not tasting and tasting.

But each subsequent bite is just another taste of the same thing. It doesn't get better. Your tongue gets used to it. Your mouth doesn't salivate for it as much anymore. But you keep eating for more of the flavor, and the more you eat, the more the flavor fades.

You could eat the entire bag of chips in one sitting, and none of the bites will be as good as that first one was.

If you had any self-control, you could just eat one chip, close up the bag, and put it away. Let a few hours—or even days—pass. Brush your teeth. Cleanse your palate. Place on your tongue things that are sweet or creamy, just anything but salty and fatty.

And then come back to the chips, and have just one more.

If you were able to do this, every bite would be the first bite. Every bite would be amazing.

But we sabotage ourselves. We convince ourselves that an entire big chip is just one bite, even if it takes a couple of bites to devour it. We accidentally choose a chip that's a runt—some mutant potato slice that's small and weird—and eat it anyway without thinking, telling ourselves it doesn't count, and taking another bite.

We're always trying to relive the first time, even when we do the same things over and over again. We want everything to be fresh and exciting. We want every dog to be a puppy, every cat to be a kitten. We are ever in pursuit of the new car smell that never goes away.

We always remember the first kiss, but not the dozens or hundreds or thousands of kisses that follow.

Maybe the key is to embrace change and variety. Make sure each bite is different than the next. Add more toppings to your pizza. Add more layers to your cocktail. Buy the variety pack. Get the whiskey flight. Try the beer sampler.

You have to know what one tastes like in order to appreciate the other.

We feel so relieved walking into an air conditioned room, but the longer we stay in there, the less cool it feels. When we go to leave, the hot air outside feels kind of good.

You have to know what both feel like.

But at some point, this all becomes exhausting. It's a lot of work. Sometimes, you want the wine that gets better with every sip—the first one a jolt to the senses, and each one that follows, a warming, calming, evolving melange of notes and tones, with a lingering aftertaste that surprises even the most trained palate.

There's a German cookie called lebkuchen that my mother, aunt, and grandmother used to make at Christmastime. I always marveled how it wasn't very good when it came out of the oven—unlike pretty much every other cookie. You had to let it cool. Then you had to frost it. And, after all of that, you had to wait a few days—even a week—before it was its most delicious.

Of course, who can wait a week to eat a Christmas cookie? So we would start snacking on them as soon as the frosting set, and we would finish them off before they passed their peak. With lebkuchen (which roughly translates as "love cake"), every bite always got better, making the best bite the last bite.

I've had a lot of exciting first bites of a lot of different things in my life. But I'm ready to start nibbling on something that's just going to get better with time. I'd like to feel like I'm moving toward my best bite.

Related Posts:
This Addictive Life
In My Bubble
The Best I'll Ever Have?
The Best I Ever Had
The Best Life?
The Lightning Strike