People called it queso. But they could have called it cat litter and I still would have eaten it every chance I got. I was in college in Austin and found myself, weekly it seemed, going through a drive-thru line in a car full of girls from the dorm because we all wanted to get our hands on the stuff. Queso filled even the hungriest bellies and — here was a bit of the magic — was also known to cure broken hearts. As I dipped the first corn triangle into the cheese, I wondered, “Has there ever been another food as perfectly wonderful as this?”
These were the early days of love, and this object of my affection could do no wrong.
After college I left Texas for places where people had never heard of queso. Even worse, if you pushed them on it, they would shred any cheese they had, melt it, then serve it to you with tortilla chips you had to pay for. But even in these years there was magic — queso transformed from a food into a kind of glue. Was I in 60 or 600 conversations that began with a stranger saying she had also lived in Texas and finished with us as friends, bonded by our dedication to the cheese?
Like they always said it would, distance did make my heart grow fonder.
And as time rolled on, I started to feel a more mature affection for queso. I was secure in the love affair and could even share it with a room. Like the room of a wedding I attended in Seattle, where the groom and his friends hailed from the Northwest while the bride was a fellow Texan.
“I heard he had a new girlfriend, and I was like ‘whatever, he always has a new girlfriend,’” one groomsman said in a speech. “But then we had a Super Bowl party, and she made this dip I’d never had before, this queso. I told him this should be his last new girlfriend.”
The next groomsman who took the microphone said, that life without the groom as his best friend would be unimaginable. Then his voice sunk an octave, “I, too, was at the Super Bowl party where the queso was served.” It seemed now he would be unable to picture existence without the new additions of bride and queso.
None of this surprised me, since I knew queso inside and out. While there are benefits to such a long-term relationship, there is the downside too.
A few months ago my husband and I went to dinner at a restaurant known for its queso, but when the waiter arrived I ordered guacamole instead. The only thing that kept my husband from falling out of his chair was the fact that he was holding on to a really large beer.
I didn’t know how to explain that lately I’d felt a little bored by queso. I’ve been back in Texas for over a decade and queso is everywhere — I could eat it for every meal if I wanted to.
But as I studied the entrees on the menu, I remembered something someone once told me about long-term relationships— how sometimes you have to be willing to shake things up and break out of your routine.
So I did something I’d never done before and ordered a bowl of queso as my main meal. And when I put that first corn triangle in, I’ll be darned if I didn’t feel a rush of the old magic.
Long live love. And long live the cheese.