The Art of Expectation
Yes,” said the girl. “Everything tastes like licorice. Especially all the things
you’ve waited so long for, like absinthe.”
"HIlls Like White Elephants" - Ernest Hemingway
My most recent encounter with it was at a well-known Boulder restaurant that is not only as pricey as a Ferrari, but comes with the kind of long-lived reputation that is synonymous with the word “institution.” Continuing the Year-of-50 celebration, I finally agreed to meet a longtime friend at the posh spot overlooking Boulder and say yes to $75 butter-poached lobster, whether I could afford it or not. We’d been talking about doing just this thing for at least a decade.
For that price tag, I expected an orgasm.
What I got was licorice.
You plot, you plan, you prepare, you’re excited. And in the end, you get “meh.”
If disappointment’s has a twin, it’s expectation. Had my expectation killed the messenger? Surely, anticipation is nothing if not a double-edged sword. Think of how many times you’ve waited to see that movie that everyone says is “really amazing,” only to be let down: “It wasn’t that great.” It’s the same with restaurant food. I build up a place in my mind or go to some new hot spot everyone is raving about, but it’s just okay. And too often, the first time at a restaurant is the best. Why is it never the same—never as fresh or surprising—again?
I am disappointed. A lot. And not just by food.
Am I drowning pleasure and the potential little surprises life has to offer under the ballast of expectation and my need to orchestrate everything? If I do X, I think, I will get Y.
|Disappointing sweetbreads an foie gras|
More and more, I want to live like I cook: with confidence and curiosity, with a willingness to be surprised, with the idea that every single meal, each kiss, each act of love can be new.
Last night, the city-dwellling boyfriend made dinner. He quick sautéed minced pork stew meat with garlic and white onions before finishing it with a bit of chicken stock. Then he fried corn tortillas as I drank wine and ate his famous guacamole. On the table: white lilies he’d bought for me. We ate the pork tacos with pickled onions and cabbage and sour cream. I served some chilled corn soup I’d made earlier in the week. We chatted and watched to the hummers fight at the feeder above my head. It had been a week since I’d seen him.
The experience was so much more satisfying than my $200 meal.
I hadn’t expected anything at all.