Growing up in a small town in Northeast Florida, she had never really experienced true love. Yes, Spanish paella made an excellent lover. With the right glass of sangria, a very satisfying ménage a trois could be had, but they never connected with her soul. Southern comfort always tried its hardest, too. Cornbread, fried porkchops, and a glass of sweet tea are good friends to have. They are sturdy; they won’t let you down. But, like a good pair of tennis shoes, they lacked the fire and passion that she craved. In vain, she tried many different types of food from Cuban to Puerto Rican to Greek. Each only satisfied her at her very basest level. None ever reached deep down in her, touched her very soul like her very first California burrito.
She walks into the taco shop across the street from her hotel, the little bell above the announcing door her arrival as she pushed it open. Her senses immediately assaulted by the brightly colored walls, the high tempo music, and the Mexican telenovela playing on the television that everyone in the restaurant was engrossed by. Her first glance at the menu overwhelms her. She’s not sure what half of these words mean. Tortas and tostadas, adobada and carne asada, she is completely at a loss. Finally, her eyes approach two familiar words: burrito and French fries. Timidly, she approaches the counter, “Can I have the California burrito, please?” A basket of fresh tortilla chips is thrust into her hands “B..b..but I didn’t order these!” The guy has already turned his back to her, busy with another order.
She takes what she is pretty sure are chips she should have paid for and looks for a place to sit. Against the wall, there is a silver cart with plastic sneeze guard, standing sentry. She feels incredibly uncomfortable and knows she looks out of place, but curiosity gets the best of her. The contents of this cart opened her eyes and made her realize that Southern California is one of the best places in the world. Laid out in stainless steel containers, nestled gently in layers ice is an assortment of various brightly colored salsas and pickled vegetables. Her guilt at not paying for the chips and feelings of being out of place slowly starting to melt away, she grabs a handful of the little cups and begins to ladle each of the salsas into them.
She bides the rest of her time patiently, letting her eyes drink more deeply of the colorful surroundings. Generic pictures of Coronas in a bucket on a beach, horchata and jamaica, and margaritas pepper the brightly colored walls. The table has seen better days with paint coming of the top and the chair has a rip in the vinyl. The tile on the lower half the wall, though chipped in various places, gives off a festive vibe and the upper have is painted to accent in it. The television, which is now playing some absurd game show, she thinks, reminds her of the old ones they used back in elementary school. Part of her is a snob; part of her wants to get up and leave cause this place looks like a rat hole. But then, she her eyes run across the salsa bar and then across her own personal stash at the table. It’s too late anyway. The man behind the counter yells out something in Spanish, and she catches just enough of it to know her order is ready.
She makes her way to the counter to be greeted by a monstrous work of art. Winding her way back to her table with her prize, a look of incredulity comes over her face. Her previous burrito experience only being with Taco Bell, she is mesmerized and taken aback. It takes both hands firmly grasping it to pick it up. She looks down at it, unsure of where to begin. “How am I supposed to fit something this big into my mouth?!”, she thinks to herself with a giggle. She takes a deep breath and then a large bite. As she pulls the burrito away from her mouth, the cheeses forms a momentary bridge, almost unwilling to sever the connection that has just been made. A little bit of crema has leaked out the side onto her chin, and pieces of carne asada are falling the tray below. She doesn’t care. This singular moment in time changed her life. The glorious polyamorous marriage among the guacamole, cheese and crema, the incredible balance of flavors between the carne asada and French fries, it all melded together. After that first sensuous parting of her lips, slowly bringing her teeth down around it, taking the bite in with her tongue and savoring every second. There is no going back for her. She has met her soul mate.