Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Last Nacho

Once there was a Mexican restaurant on the eastern bluff of Mobile Bay. It sat on the side of a two-lane road after the thoroughfare had curved away from the closest town. A dirt and gravel plot in front of the restaurant served as a parking lot for the long, low building. On one side of the structure, which appeared to have been a house in the distant past, there was a screened porch. Usually a guitar player of passable skill was plunked on a stool on the porch, picking out classic rock songs by the likes of Lynyrd Skinner or Creedence Clearwater Revival while wailing out the lyrics over the amplified music. The gathered listeners, depending on their level of joviality which was directly tied to how many Corona Extras had been downed, would sometimes sing along.
But inside the restaurant area, wooden tables and chairs held happy diners imbibing gooey cheese enchiladas, gloppy refried beans, and mounds of yellow rice. The establishment went by the name of the Last Nacho, the name taken from a story recounted on the back of the menu. You know how it goes. The platter arrives, heaped with crispy tortilla chips smothered with melty cheese, jalapeƱos, sour cream, pico de gallo, maybe some ground beef. Everyone reaches to grab a chip. Crunching, chewing, and swallowing follows. And then the moment arrives. There’s only one nacho left on the plate. Eyes dart back and forth. Finally someone asks, “Who wants the last nacho?”
“I’m done.”
“I won’t have room for my meal, if I eat another one.”
“I think I’ve had enough.”
“You eat it.”
“No, thanks. Why don’t you?”
No one wants to be the person who eats the last nacho. I suppose there is a measure of politeness in declining. Who wants to be labeled greedy or gluttonous? But the last nacho just sits there. The cheese grows cold and hard; the chip splays out limply on the platter like a fallen soldier left on the battlefield after everyone else has retreated. (Excuse the cheesy simile – I’m writing this on Veteran’s Day.) Finally, the server arrives to whisk the platter away, back to the kitchen to be scraped into the trash.
            I’ve run across a few folks who are suspicious of the last of anything. “There must be something wrong with that one. That’s why no one is eating it. What has everyone else seen that I haven’t?” I have a dear family member, who shall remain nameless, who thinks the last of anything must be stale, molded, rancid, or generally contaminated.
But that’s not as annoying as people who have an objection to just about every food. We’ve all dined with one of them at one time or another.
“I don’t eat that.”
“I’ve never had this.”
“I don’t know what that is.”
“I think my mother told me I’m allergic to this.”
“My cousin, the podiatrist, says I’m most probably gluten intolerant.”
“That always gives me gas.”
“What’s tha-a-a-t? Yuck!”
“I’ve given up dairy, meat, pasta, bread, sauces, fried foods and all foods beginning or ending with consonants.”
“So what do you eat?”
“Oh, I still eat foods beginning or ending with vowels as long as they aren’t dairy, meat, pasta…..”
If you’re one of these people, then “Bless your heart,” as we say in the South. You probably want to stop reading now, and please don’t ever invite me to eat with you. Now I know that some folks have legitimate allergies or intolerances to certain foods, but they seem to just keep quiet about it and choose what they can eat from what is offered.  The OTHERS want everyone else within earshot involved in their issues.
I’ve found that the people who limit themselves so much in one area of life, like food, tend to live small lives. A few months ago I sat by a woman at a luncheon held at a local Italian restaurant. She didn’t know what most of the common Italian dishes listed on the menu were. As she read the descriptions, she commented with a string of don’ts, nevers, can'ts, and won’ts. Then, while we dined, I attempted to converse with her, despite her expressed revulsion to the mushrooms on my plate. She had never traveled outside her home state and had no desire to. She was horrified that I had flown, in an airplane, across the ocean, all the way to Europe, twice, and that I wanted to go back. I diligently searched for topics to discuss with her. She didn’t like to read, doesn’t watch television, has no interest in music. I considered bringing up politics just to get something going, but then she mentioned that she doesn’t watch the news or read the newspaper, so I doubt that she would have known anything about any current issues. She’s one of those people who lives in a small world and never tries anything new or wonders what’s beyond the horizon. A small life filled with negativity.

So, I say: Try new things. Embrace new opportunities. Never stop learning. Sing along with your radio in the car. Dance like no one is watching. Run like Phoebe in Friends. Don’t be shy, because, in the words of Dr. Seuss, “those who matter don't care, and those who care don't matter.” Laugh out loud. Live positively.  And, if no one else wants it and you haven’t already cleaned out the complimentary chip bowl - twice, eat that last nacho.

May your tea be sweet and your cotton high,
Leigh Ann Thornton

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