This week’s writing experiment. with apologies to Haruki Murakami
One beautiful August afternoon, at a food truck on some narrow side street in west LA, I ate the 100% perfect burrito.
Honestly, there was nothing about it that made it particularly delicious. It didn’t seem to have any special ingredients. The underside of the tortilla had been left on the grill slightly too long. It wasn’t especially appetizing. But still, I knew before I even took a bite: It was the 100% perfect burrito for me. The moment I smelled it, my tongue became moist with saliva, as I anticipated savoring its every bite.
Maybe you have your own particular favorite type of food—a pizza with crisp pepperonis, say, or a bacon-wrapped hot dog, perhaps. I have my own preferences, of course. Sometimes in a restaurant I’ll catch myself staring at a plate at the next table to mine because something about a dish has captured my attention.
But no one can insist that his 100% perfect meal correspond to some preconceived type. Much as I like tortillas, I can’t recall the texture of that burrito’s ground-flour wrapper. All I can remember for sure is that there was nothing especially gourmet about it. It’s weird.
“Yesterday on the street I ate the 100% perfect burrito,” I tell someone.
“Yeah?” he says. “Tasted delicious, eh?”
“Your favorite restaurant, then?”
“No, I bought it from a food truck. I can’t seem to remember anything about it—the flavor of the meat or the texture of the melted cheese.”
“So anyhow,” he says, already bored, “did you take down the name of the food truck? Are you going to follow them on twitter?”
“Nah. Just had the burrito and went on my way.”
The food truck drove from east to west, and I walked west to east. It was a really a wonderful August afternoon.
Wish I could have seen the person on the food truck prepare burritos. Twenty minutes would be plenty: just watch how they grilled the meat, how they folded the tortilla. Discover how the complexities of fate had wrapped perfection in a thin wrapper of wax paper and tin foil. The burrito had surely been peppered with mystical seasonings, ingredients from a time when children played happy and free on the corner lot, sand in their shoes and joy in their hearts.
After speaking with my friend, I felt I should have taken down the name of the truck, or at least made note of its appearance, or where and when I had seen it. Having failed on these counts, what recourse did I have? I could track down all of the food trucks on the west side, one at a time, sampling their wares. Ridiculous. I’d gain all sorts of weight, and who knows whether I would even be able to recognize another burrito as coming from the same truck.
Maybe the simple truth would do. “Good afternoon. I believe I once at the 100% perfect burrito; could it have been served at this truck?”
No, who would believe it? Or even if they did, they would probably not be able to recreate the experience for me. Sorry, the employee could say, we may have made the 100% perfect burrito for you, but we have since changed our produce suppliers and have not had the same luck with avocados that we once had.
It could happen. And if I found myself in that situation, I’d probably be through with burritos. I’d never recover. I’m nearly thirty, and I know that losing touch with the flavors of youth is a simple fact of growing older.
I recall walking away with my burrito, as the truck’s ignition roared to life behind me, and they prepared to drive away. I walk a block further, slowly eating the burrito, and turn: the truck has already turned a corner as I am nearly halfway finished with my snack, the taste of sour cream and grilled onion lingering on my palate.