Look around next time you’re eating near a bunch of kids and you may notice that the limits of food combinations expand to an astounding degree.
You might catch someone sprinkling sugar on meat or hot sauce on ice cream. And if there’s soy sauce on a table, some little one has probably soaked his entire meal in it.
I wonder what’s going through their minds when I see it.
Then I remember that my own favorite childhood breakfast was pancakes covered in ketchup and it all comes back to me.
Seeing what happens when you combine as many flavors as possible is a lot more fun than sticking with the boring, old, ordinary dish.
This is a big reason why most kids aren’t allowed free reign in the kitchen. It takes time to learn that it’s OK — marvelous, even — to let the simple flavors of just one good ingredient, or maybe two or three, stand on their own.
And then some of us forget.
That truth hit me a couple weeks ago at my favorite bar. It’s a tiny place under the open sky that I’m at long enough for one or two drinks just once a year if I’m lucky.
This was one of those lucky years. As my wife and I walked to a table, the sun bore down and a hint of a breeze blew past us. Right away the weather had me had me looking past the beer list for something that fit the mood a little better.
There were plenty of drinks to choose from — concoctions dressed up with hibiscus this, watermelon that or smoke-infused something or other. All of it delicious, I’m sure, but a starkly beautiful afternoon like this called for a simpler pleasure.
And when it comes to mixed drinks, there aren’t many that keep a sunny day company as well as the daiquiri.
I know what a lot of you are thinking right now: “Really, a daiquiri? That big, pink, frozen thing with flowers and umbrellas sticking out?”
No. I mean a daiquiri, that small glass of light rum over ice, sharpened with a jolt of lime and mellowed with just a little sugar dissolved in water.
It was a perfect drink once upon a time, back before we bedazzled it beyond any hope of recognition.
I don’t know how long ago that was, but enough time has passed that now when you say, “daiquiri — just rum, lime and syrup,” what your server might hear is “the tallest glass you have, full of pink slush.”
That’s what I ended up with, at least.
I do have to admit that this particular pink slush was pretty good — citrus-bright and freezing cold against a warm day. But the pile of sweet shaved ice buried the rum’s heat and the mouth-puckering lime.
When it came time for the second round, the server asked me to write down what I wanted from the bartender. Easy: Two parts light rum, one part lime juice, a half part syrup, over ice.
That drink, my last one for at least a year at what may be the world’s most relaxing bar, was perfect.
And it gave my wife and me the chance to talk about what else is perfect when we’re wise enough to let it simply stand on its own.
Flank steak with nothing but a sprinkle of salt. A long, two-person drive with no radio, no audiobook, just hours of alternating conversation and quiet. A slice of afternoon under the sun with one hand on your wife’s warm arm and the other wrapped around a cold drink.
Beautiful simplicity — I’ll drink to that.
Richard Espinoza is a former editor of the Johnson County Neighborhood News. You can reach him at email@example.com. And follow him on Twitter at @respinozakc.