How Do You Recapture the Magic?

catering-taco-barI remember my first time like it was yesterday.

It was three weeks ago when it happened. I wasn’t expecting it–I thought we were just hanging out, maybe playing some games.

And, to be honest, I didn’t think it was different than anything else. You’ve had one, you’ve had them all, you know?

I’m talking, of course, about Qdoba. A friend provided it for lunch at a board game day, and as soon as the adobo chicken hit my lips, the world opened up to me.

Really, it was a near-religious experience. What was happening? Why had I never tried this before? I could have been doing this for years! It was incredible.

But here’s the thing: Since that fateful day, I’ve sought to recapture the magic, and it hasn’t happened. Not for lack of trying. I’ve gotten lunch at the Q once a week for the last three weeks.

The first time, I got the wrong kind of cheese, and it was so spicy that I couldn’t taste the chicken. The second time, I got the tortilla soup, which is good, but certain ingredients got in the way of the chicken.

I got pretty close today. I went no frills: chips, mild queso, pinto beans, and adobo chicken. Salsa on the side. And it was good. Really good. But it still wasn’t quite the same.

At this point I think the only way I can experience the sheer pleasure of the first time is to recreate the exact situation. Same location, same games, same people, same nacho bar. I think it’s possible.

Have you ever had this happen? You eat something that is so delicious, but when you try to relive the glory, it’s not quite the same, and you can’t figure out why?

9 thoughts on “How Do You Recapture the Magic?”

  1. …Well that wasn’t where I thought this post was going…

    To an extent, any new food will do that for me if I like the new food, because there’s something fascinating about experiencing a new food or drink for the first time, playing the textures and tastes against the mouth in order to experience the delights that, even repeating taking it slower than you usually eat to play with the textures and tastes in the mouth because there’s no longer any surprise left, but… I don’t think I’ve ever had it in that same visceral way as you describe.

    The way I thought this post was going, meanwhile, presented as a question since you used to work in books judging by your kickstarter history: If you could experience one piece of media – book, film, game, whatever – for the first time again, what would it be? Mine, I think, would be Undertale, with neither me nor the game remembering that we’ve done this before, and preferably with me going into it with less knowledge than I had the first time (i.e. not only not going in with any narrative spoilers, but also not knowing the game’s USP), just to see if I’d play it differently without that knowledge.

    • I really like that question, Stephen (and I can definitely relate to the idea that there’s something fascinating and memorable about the first time eating any food). I’m sure there are many pieces of media I’d like to experience for the first time again, but the one that came to mind first was reading Ready Player One. I don’t think I’ve ever had such an exhilarating reading experience as I did with that book. While I may reread it someday, I know it won’t be the same as the first time since I know all the major plot points.

  2. Actually I have never experienced that! Usually when a food item has been so memorable, it usually continues to deliver every time I eat it. Case in point with the creamy jalapeno ranch dressing (that I am convinced has an addictive element added to it) from a mexican restaurant in town and with spicy pad thai from a local thai restaurant. I am hardly ever disappointed. I guess I am fortunate or I have blocked out any incongruent memories.

    • I’m glad that’s the case with your food experiences, Dionne! I’ve had it happen with some foods, but for some reason not Qdoba. 🙂

  3. Jamey,

    I’ve had it happen a few times, but typically at places like Qdoba where the turn-over of staff is quite high. By contrast, there are a few restaurants in D.C. my girlfriend and I frequent because we know that the food preparation s remains consistent. Whether you love the guy or hate him (I’m in the former camp), Chef Gordon Ramsey often talked about the fact that it’s not important to make that one dish perfectly right now…it’s that patrons know that when they enter your establishment they’re going to have the same experience every time.

    Now, as for me in my own kitchen…I love to cook, and I love to experiment. I’ll share with you a story from about five years ago in which I made my first batch of meatballs. When my friend of Italian ancestry asked me about my recipe, I said, “well, I used a 1/4 tsp of salt, a cup of onions, a…” and he cut me off in mid-sentence [use your imagination for the over-the-top Italian accent]. “Joey, you’re doin’ it all wrong…you don’t measure when you’re cooking. Cooking is an art. Now, baking…baking is a science. For your meatballs, just put what you feel is right and enjoy them., Next time, add a little more of this or a little more of that…”


    • Joseph: You cook in a similar way that I do! I’ve learned that it doesn’t work as well when baking, as a more precise measure of ingredients is necessary there. 🙂

      • Yes – General cooking is definitely art, mix and experiment at will – I rarely make the same pasta sauce twice (the sauce of a curry, though not the contents, was a bit more consistent back when I was cooking regularly, on account of usually having the same spices in, and… Just popping a bit of everything in while making it, rather than using prepackaged curry powder or… That weird gel you can get). Baking is science, precise measurements are (almost) always a necessity.

        Out of curiosity, did the concept of a Crumble ever make it across the pond? A WWII invention on account of rationing, basically a pie but made with easier to acquire ingredients during rationing and a, well, crumbling economy. Stuck around because, unlike most rationing necessity foods, it actually tasted good.

        • I haven’t heard of Crumble, but it sounds like an interesting concept. Is it a sweet or savory pie (in the US when we hear “pie,” we think of dessert, but I think that may be different in the UK).

          • Savory pies seem more common here than in the US, but it’s not an exclusive thing (to the point that figuring out which is being referred to is usually context dependent unless it’s obvious due to specifying what’s in the pie (Cheese and onion pie, apple pie, steak and kidney pie, etc).

            Crumbles are usually Sweet – Savory crumbles allegedly exist, but I’ve never encountered one.


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