The Hidden Value In Junk Food
Zaron Burnett III


We’d have to confront a few signals and waddle through Saturday night traffic to get there. It was a 40 minute ride. But the local Caribbean restaurant was the only eatery that my family of four agreed upon. Chinese would hear a whine here, Italian would hear a whine there. I din’t fancy seafood and neither did I fancy this place but I din’t complain. I would pretend that my heart sang for it because I wasn’t in the mood to welcome conflict. While it made everyone else happy, I fostered hope that one day I would acquaint a new taste. So we’d make a monthly pilgrimage to this particular food temple and I’d tag along.

I have always loved reading the menu, even if I’ve already been to the place a dozen times. I’d read it again and again. Not that I’d be on the lookout for something new. I would have hated anything new. I din’t warm up to change back then. I’d do it because it reminded me of the impossible depths of wonder the kitchen gods had blessed us mortals with. During one such cheeky indulgence, I saw it loud and clear.

I wasn’t feeling hungry so I thought to myself, why not? The banter at the table would be about school or something in the news. Gradually, the conversation would snake its way to the summer or winter, whichever was nearer. An occasional nod. A perfunctory hum. That’s how I would take part. Half of me was drowning in the soft mass of beaten potato. Was it the salt or the butter? Perhaps it was the foggy blend of the two. It wasn’t clear. I knew that I was coming back and the next time I wouldn’t have to wince and feign interest. If you were around on any of my later visits, you would notice me contemplating on each mouthful. I would chew meekly through the potatoes as I attempt to unravel the the identity of the secret ingredient.

Its funny, how we acquire memories. Sometimes in unexpected ways. Sometimes over the smell of salt and mashed paste.

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