Every now and then I realize that I am a grown up. I have a car and a decent amount of change lying around the house.
I can buy and eat a chalupa.
I gave up fast food years ago. Although, as a mother of two small children in a tiny city that is dark and below freezing 9 months out of the year, I will occasionally cave on the no fast-food policy and take the kids to the play area of a fast food establishment that shall here go unnamed.
These trips are: 1. rare, 2. part of a comprehensive strategic effort to preserve the sanity of all parties involved, and 3. loathsome on every level. I’ve given up on trying to find anything edible there. Everything tastes like deep-fried, heavily-salted ear wax.
But the chalupa is another matter.
What is it about Taco Bell that holds such irrational sway over the hearts and minds of America?
About 6 to 8 times per year, chalupas become my obsession and everything else I eat becomes not-a-chalupa. It cannot be willed or reasoned away.
When I was pregnant with my eldest, I was practically a vegetarian. Still, the chalupa demanded it’s due. My husband eventually took to just stopping at Taco Bell before he came home. Every. Single. Day. I’m certain half my amniotic fluid was Baja sauce.
Remember Baja sauce?
Around the time they discontinued it, I was at a Taco Bell getting lunch.
My office was actually three blocks north of this particular Taco Bell. But it lie across a six-lane road with a hard to get-in-and-out-of parking lot that required an illegal U-turn and a shortcut across the lawn of an apartment complex. So I rarely visited it, let alone mapping the daily traffic pattern and police frequency for the route.
But on this particular day I NEEDED A CHALUPA.
A beef, Baja chalupa. Or two.
I’m not entirely sure how the junk-food innovation known as the chalupa came to be. Perhaps they use only stoners in their test demographics. But I do know, it is the one fast food I cannot eradicate from my life. Nor do I wish to.
The drive-thru line was 64-cars-deep, so I went in.
Although I avoid fast food in general, I love the employees who work in fast food. Many are teenagers. They’re still in the throes of pubescent social awkwardness. I can relate to that. They haven’t yet had their quirks and idiosyncrasies corporate desk-jobbed out of them. They’re odd. They’re okay with odd people. They deal with odd people all day.
I once told a friend about visiting a proctologist, “He looks at assholes all day. Yours is not going to be the worst he’s ever seen.”
The same can be said for fast food workers. They accept you for who you are.
Furthermore the employees of Taco Bell get me. The really, really understand the need Taco Bell junkies have.
I walked up to the counter. The cashier was a young man of not more than 19-years.
“Two beef Baja supreme chalupas,” I said.
The young man frowned.
“They’re not doing Baja anymore,” he said. He had the serious and studied air of a man who’s been giving terrible news to strangers all day. Like the head vet of a canine oncology center.
“What?” I said. This was the only possible response. Not just because I was shocked, but because he had triggered a mexi-nugget flashback.
They were basically tiny tator-tots slathered in taco seasoning.
In other words, manna.
I don’t remember when exactly they discontinued mexi-nuggets. I must have blocked that particular memory as part of my PMNSD (post mexi-nugget stress disorder) healing process. But I do remember I cried.
In fact, I still wake up weeping sometimes.
But this kid, like I said, he GOT me.
He leaned across the counter with a look that could only mean, I’m free-basing the hot-sauce and said, “But I think I can hook you up.”
He had me against the wall and he knew it.
I won’t admit I ever paid $30 dollars for a tiny tub of Baja sauce. But I’m not saying I didn’t either.
I know what you’re thinking. Don’t try to tell me how terrible this food is for me. It doesn’t matter.
You could say to me, “You know, that’s made out of babies.”
And I’d say, “Oh my god, that’s awful! Nom nom nom nom nom…”
They’ve made a lot of menu changes lately. I hear breakfast is on offer now.
All I can do is thank my lucky stars that didn’t happen while I was in college.
I’d be roughly 7,000 lbs by now.