What’s your favorite food? is a very common question. It’s one whose answer we assume says something about ourselves. It’s supposed to say a bit about who we are. And just so you know, my favorite Croatian food is paštisada, which probably tells you I’m a dalmatinski zet. Now, for many Croatians, they can make their favorite meal at home, but what do you do when your favorite meal comes from a chain restaurant in Oklahoma?
I’m writing this at 5:08 am and craving a bean burrito with hot sauce from a fast food chain… that we’ll call Good Taco. Why? Because I just woke up from a dream in which I discovered a Good Taco somewhere on the outskirts of Zagreb. I even paid for my dream bean burrito in kuna.
Sigh, is this what living abroad has reduced me too? Dreaming about mediocre bean burritos and then waking up to blog about it? Are the bean burritos at Good Taco amazing? No, and I wouldn’t even recommend them to someone visiting Oklahoma as ‘something you’ve just gotta try!’ There is much better Mexican food all over the state.
No, my craving for a subpar bean burrito is all about the fact that its likely I might never eat a Good Taco bean burrito again. I guess the heart, and the stomach, want what they can’t have… crappy bean burritos! These mundane finalities that sort of creep up on those of us who live abroad and confirm the distance between home and here, then and now. With google I can look at clips of old shows, drive down my old street, and search for a bunch of bits and pieces of nostalgia that often coming floating to the fore of my mind. But, the scent and taste of food is one of the few things we don’t have access to via the Internet.
Right now, in the wee morning hours of a spring Zagreb day I cannot use the Internet to get me a bean burrito from Good Taco. Hmmm, Amazon? No. And now, as I try and remember when was the last time I had such a been burrito, I can’t. There was no act of solemn eating. I didn’t bless my food and think, this is the last time I’ll eat a bean burrito from Good Taco. I can’t even remember if I had one the last time I went to the US four years ago.
I can’t even really remember eating there at a specific time. Rather I remember the ‘times’ I ate there. After school sometimes in Middle School because a Good Taco was near the school, after night swimming in a pool in the summer, and after work by the one near my old job. Remembering the last time I had a bean burrito would be like a Croatian remembering the last time she had a krafna. It’s a food so ubiquitous that to remember eating it would be like remembering the last time you walked on the sidewalk.
Missing a bean burrito is less about the beans or the burrito, and more about the life this routine was routed in. Driving around with friends on a careless summer eve, ordering through the drive thru amid the strip mall’s neon glow just after the closing shift at my old retail job. If I had one more bite of a bean burrito from Good Taco, I swear I could taste what it was like to be home.