In and Out of Love

Great cooking is art. The decor of the restaurant sets a perfect mood. Clean cut men in suits dine next to gorgeous women. They discuss relevant social issues and speak highly of their family and friends. Smells and flavors overwhelm and intoxicate. Matching gifted chefs and patrons with discerning palettes is a thing of beauty. Carefully chosen wines accentuate and release all the flavors hiding just beneath our noses, each more revealing than the next. Groans of delight are heard echoing throughout the restaurant. Exotic delicacies from all over the world tantalize the tongue. Horizons explode as the chef unveils his newest creations. Marvel after marvel, and treat after treat nearly exhaust the patrons. Every morsel is savored as the courses build toward a climatic finish. By dessert the diners are spent. They have explored every nook and cranny of their senses and have sailed across vast seas of pleasure. Paralyzed by pleasure, overrun by opulence, and crippled by creativity, the guests leave with an experience they won't soon forget.

We should all be so lucky to enjoy a dining experience of this caliber.

Most nights, however, it's late and I have to work in the morning. I've eaten all the food in my messenger bag and gnawing hunger has me at the 24 hour Taco Bell on Clark and Addison. The homeless man out front selling copies of The Onion asks me for change--and is indignant when I tell him to have a nice night. Outside, the trash cans are spilling over with beer cans and still warm vomit. The humid air sends wafting clouds of piss stampeding from the alleyway. The surly cashier ignores my request to hold the sour cream. Drowning the bland taste of overcooked refried beans in a half dozen packets of fire sauce, I choke down flat Mountain Dew and the quickly congealing sludge that passes for nacho cheese. I swear one of my fillings comes loose every time I bite down on a rock hard piece of rice. I try not to think about how long it's been sitting uncovered at room temperature. When all is said and done, I wonder, am I really this hungry?

Yeah. We all gotta eat.

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