October 29, 2010

The Best Thing I Ever Tasted

"I mean, who likes brussels sprouts?" My food snob date was sitting across from me, watching me munch on the fried outer leaves of the brussels sprouts I'd ordered at dinner.

"I do."

"But they're not the best thing you ever tasted, are they?" he nagged.

"Well, no..."

But do they have to be?

I am a fan of good food, good tastes, good flavors, good texture, but I am also a fan of variety. As a child, I was raised on a limited diet, but even my gastronomically provincial parents had to struggle to get me to eat anything more than bologna with French's yellow on white bread, or peanut butter and jelly (on white bread). (Quite frankly, I just didn't like the other options given to me, which were generally boiled meat, stewed tomatoes, a rainbow of cabbages and other German delicacies.) As an adult, though, I will try pretty much anything you put in front of me - any part of the animal, any animal. And although I don't always like it, and certainly don't always love it, I am always glad I tried it.

What would my life be like if I only ever ate the best thing I ever tasted? How much variety could I possibly get out of that, when the best thing I ever tasted was some chocolate and peanut butter product from Reese's? Even if I were to expand it out to the various food groups - the best meat, bread, vegetable, cocktail I ever tasted - wouldn't the repetition of that best thing cause a flavor fatigue on my palate, thereby diminishing how good I think it is?

Although I advocate living the best life one can live, consuming only the best things - or judging their competitors because they aren't the best - would only set me up for a life of disappointment. Sometimes the pizza I want the most is a frozen French bread pizza, or some weird little crackery saucy frisbee from a bar. And at that moment, I may not be craving the best thing, but it's the thing I want.

Happiness is knowing what you want.

During that same date, after seeing a movie I enjoyed despite his constant unwhispered complaints during it, my companion asked me, "You didn't actually like that, did you?"

"Yes, I did."

"But it's not the best movie you've ever seen, is it?"

"Well, no...."

But it doesn't have to be!

I have a lot of patience and appreciation for cheesy pop songs, cheap junk food, Hollywood movies and disposable flip flops. These experiences can be endlessly enjoyable in their fleeting nature, their accessibility, and their infectiousness. And although I truly believe that I can learn a tremendous amount from bad experiences and failures - perhaps more than from good experiences and successes - I won't regret not going out again with this ill-mannered, bratty drunk with no regard for  my enjoyment of our date, because he wasn't the best guy I ever went out with.

And although variety is a good thing also in the company you keep, I choose to share myself and my time with only the best.

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  1. Doesn't what your doing and where you are in your life at a particular moment determine what the "best" is? If I just stumbled out of the desert without drinking for a week the best glass of water I ever had could have been wrung out of an old bar rag!

    And roasted brussel sprouts with a good evoo and balsamic vinegar with walnuts is the best!