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I love taco and salad bars because they allow me to make my own mistakes. A restaurant structure that allows me to push aside the needless skill and mastery of culinary training so I can pair chick-peas with imitation crab meat on a whim.

It entertains the idea that if I like something and I like something else, I will undoubtedly love them both together. No where else in life, except in a place where I will both go out to eat and still do my own cooking, can I consider contradictions, peruse paradoxes, or dance the dance of dissonance so viscerally.

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

Visually, it is a Jackson Pollock potluck. Strings of color, dots of flavor, explosions of edible artwork on a leafy green canvas or a potential experiential installation waiting to be painted on my tongue from off of a cornflour easel.

And it is never good. I mean, it’s not bad. I mean, it’s adequate to satisfy my hunger and fulfill my tongue’s addiction to the taste of salt and fat, but not good.


Meat and okra.

That sounds like a real thing, doesn’t it? And while I may never plate, pair, or proportion it quite as well as an Iron Chef challenger, I still feel accomplished. I made this! Well, I put them in the same styrofoam container, but does having a simple recipe alone make for poor food?

And why should it matter? This is an expression of myself meant only for myself! I wasn’t planning on sharing, anyway. Not any more than we all share ingredients from the same trough of roughage and bacon bits.

I love taco and salad bars because they remind me of life. My un-tossed tray of greens and beans exactly like being. An unorganized, somewhat intentional intelligence at work. Never good, but almost always better than bad.


Me, the over ambitious designer of my experience, trying to pair sleeping in with excellent fitness on the same tray. In life it doesn’t work that way. Not really. Life is not as perfect as a salad. Or a taco.

How could it be?

I mean, when there are employees at the bar, they don’t even judge me for what I ask them to add on. Yes, I said sprinkle cinnamon on my chili, thank you.

I love taco and salad bars because they give me the creative freedom and control to enjoy whatever I like, even if I don’t enjoy it, without consequence.

To know that no matter the mess I make it is never so unpalatable that I might want to quit the salad bar forever.

To make mistakes I honestly won’t make twice.

To feel like I’m healthy even if I drizzle extra ranch over my greens because I’m eating the greens.

When do we forget how to congratulate ourselves for just living like we congratulate ourselves for just being at the salad bar? When do we forget how to take the good with the bad? To pair them together? To eat our messes like we own them? To still believe our lives are worthy even when they are a mess, just like how no matter how much nonsense we throw on it a salad only becomes more and more like a salad?

I love taco and salad bars because they remind me of Eden.