While having lunch with my husband a few weeks ago, I noticed the appetizer menu included queso dip and chips. By the description, I was assured that the "queso" dip was made with a liquid cheese-type product - some gooey molten mixture of picante sauce, cheese flavoring, and oil.
We didn’t order the appetizer but it stuck in my mind. So much so, that later that day I found myself buying a box of shelf-stable cheese product and a can of spiced tomatoes to make my own "queso" dip. You might be appalled to learn that a trained chef would succumb to thoughts of faux cheese and salty chips but I have to admit that I am occasionally tempted to stray.
I think it’s the food memory that pushes me over the edge. There are certain junk foods from my youth that hold a mystique. They were the special treat, the comfort food, the guilty pleasure. Here’s the kicker though, my memory has the tendency to exaggerate goodness. My food memory gets wrapped up in other elements - who I was with, what I was doing, where I was.
My fond memories of queso dip were colored by the fact that the last time I ate it was about 13 years ago while living in Japan. My father used to send me care packages of western food. I think he would actually ship me food that he wished he could eat but that my mother wouldn’t let him buy. Boxes would come loaded with spiced pork shoulder in a can, faux cheese, cured sausages and more. I would laugh every time I opened a package from him. I would have rarely eaten these items had I been in the US but here they were laid out like pirate’s treasure in the foreign land. A glorious reminder of my distant homeland. When presented with snack mixes of toasted soybeans and dried fish, I can’t tell you what a wonderful treat crappy queso dip was to me and my western friends!
So, on rainy afternoon in March, called by a distant siren song of my junk food memory, I made the cheesy, salty, spicy goo and...it was lousy! I mean really a let-down. Perhaps it was the absence of laughing friends, plenty of beer, and Japanese game shows in the background, but sadly my food memory did not stand up to reality. I should have left that bright yellow box on the shelf of my mind but I tempted fate. I thought it was the food that I savored but it was so much more.
Have you ever revisited a favorite junk food only to find that it wasn’t as good as you remembered? Or was it? Share your favorite junk food memory!