Must Be The Queso That Sells These Chips

by Kevin Burton

    Covid has changed so many things, I can’t begin to tell you how many, but here’s one change in the Burton household.

   Whereas before my wife and I would be going to our favorite Mexican restaurant on a pleasant Friday evening, hanging out, chillin’, placing our order and waiting for our favorite dishes, now we’re calling that in and picking it up curbside. 

   I lived and worked in Mexico for a while, so I loved to go to these restaurants and listen to the music to see how much of the sappy love song lyrics I could understand between the accordion solos. 

   In the old days, pre-virus, I would be getting into the music when a wait person would bring us a basket of chips.  This would be signal that we have fifteen to twenty minutes to graze on these chips and talk excitedly before our entres arrive. 

   We would always be happy to be there, not cooking, not washing dishes, working on these chips.

    Sometimes Jeannette likes the salsa, but it’s never hot enough for me so we order a bowl of queso.  That does the trick. We begin to absent-mindedly devour one or maybe even two baskets of those chips.

   The waitress comes and asks if we want another basket of chips.  Yes, of course!

   But then it’s “wait a minute don’t take the crumbs away because we love these chips.  Yes we want another basket but we fully intend to inhale these crumbs just the way we inhaled the rest of them.” 

   Then the entres come. Gorged on chips, we politely poke at the food and take 80 percent of it home for one or two meals later on in the weekend.  Not a bad deal at all.

   But now this is the covid era and we’re picking up these meals.  They bring our old familiar favorites, which puts us in a good mood, but then there is this extra bag. It’s those chips. 

   You know what it is as soon as your hand hits the bag. You think “Oh no, I forgot to tell them to hold the chips.”

   You get home to eat your food you are not going to have fifteen minutes of amiable conversation, mindlessly eating chips.  You don’t even have any queso. That entire bag of chips is going in the pantry. 

   Gentlemen, correct me if I am wrong. Your wife is not going to eat these chips. 

   If you have the heart you can start into “Sweetie you know you can help me eat these chips.” But chances are your voice is going to trail off before you get that far. If not, you’re going to get a blank face, followed by a patient smile that tells you all you need to know about who will be consuming said chips.

   You can not get rid of these chips eating five or six at a time when your usual M.O. in the restaurant is five or six in your hand at a time slamming them down like you haven’t eaten in two days. 

   These chips will be with you for-ever, lingering. So you taste them two, three, even four weeks later and they’re not stale.  You can’t justify throwing them away. 

   You either have to buy or make some really good queso so your wife might eat some, or suck it up and eat these things yourself. 

   I hate wasting food. That instinct hurts at such times.  But the pre-marriage counselling kicks in and I accept the inevitable.

   Since my wife doesn’t speak Spanish, one of the things I loved to do at these restaurants is tell the waitress, in Spanish, after placing the order or when they come around to check on us, “please bring the bill to my wife when this meal is over. She has requested the bill be brought to her.”

   Not once has the always bilingual wait staff ratted me out!  How awesome is that!?

   Years ago at a Mexican-owned music store in Garden City, Kansas, a cashier told me “I’ve never heard Spanish that good come out of a face that white.”

   The wait staff at the eateries must have a similar appreciation of my effort to speak their language. And if I can keep a straight face, Jeannette accepts the bill without complaint. 

   Right now in the curbside pickup era I don’t even have that satisfaction.    But I can still enjoy the chori-pollo (Mexican sausage with chicken) and smile.  The chorizo is too spicy for Jeannette and I will get to eat all of my leftovers, albeit with a huge load of those bland chips.

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