We’re just back from a Friday evening concert of the Utah Symphony at Symphony Hall in Salt Lake City. It was a great program. In the first half, the orchestra played the Brandenburg Concertos 3 and 4, by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), with Mémoriale, by Pierre Boulez (1925-2016), sandwiched in between. The second half of the program was entirely Nordic, beginning with the Concerto in D minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 47, by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). The Latvian violinist Baiba Skride was the soloist. The concluding piece was a series of selections from Peer Gynt, by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg (1843-1907).
Bach, Sibelius, and Grieg are major favorites of mine. (For whatever it’s worth, I’ve been to the home of each one of them. Or, more precisely, in Sibelius’s case, to a statue representing him and it.) Oddly, though, while I love Grieg’s Peer Gynt, that affection doesn’t extend to Henrik Ibsen’s play by the same name. Of course, I’ve only actually seen it performed just once — many years ago — and perhaps I should give it a second chance. But, on the occasion when I did see it, I didn’t merely not like it. I hated it.
An evening such as this deserves to be accompanied by fine food. By haute cuisine. And, tonight, it was.
A standby of ours, when we’re short of time, hungry, and on the road away from home, is the Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Taco. And that’s what we went for tonight. Moreover, we washed our tacos down with an excellent Diet Pepsi, on the rocks. Much better, in my humble opinion, than Diet Coke or Coke Zero. I’m not much for soft drinks, actually. When I had hepatitis in Egypt, the doctor recommended regular mass consumption of soft drinks in order to keep my blood sugar up. I’m not sure whether there’s really much medical value in such a treatment, but it so turned me off from soft drinks that it’s only in recent years that the sheer thought of them hasn’t disgusted me. And, even now, I don’t like them that much on the rare occasions that I drink them. But a Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Taco needs to be paired with a beverage of the appropriate quality.
I share such things, in part, because my occasional posts about the restaurants, plays, and concerts that I visit absolutely infuriate a small coterie of my critics, and because I feel a need to do something to enrich their otherwise manifestly drab existences.
But I’m also leading up to a story that concerns, precisely, Taco Bell.
Many years ago, I served as a counselor to the bishop who presided over the ward made up of the folks living in BYU’s Foreign Language Student Residence — an apartment complex in which students of Spanish, Japanese, Russian, German, Arabic, etc., headed up by native speakers of those languages, spoke only their target language while at home. (Alas, we’ll be attending his wife’s funeral on Saturday morning.) Our ward clerk was a native of Mexico City who was a passionate and quite discerning partisan of good Mexican cuisine.
One year, we were chatting after he had returned to BYU from the Christmas break. Eventually, it came out that he was somewhat irritated that a new Taco Bell restaurant had just opened up not far from his family’s house in Mexico City — and that, for at least the time that he had been back home, the line of Taco Bell customers extended from the restaurant’s doors back around the block. Incredulous and even a bit indignant, he asked some of the people standing in the line what on earth they were doing. “We want to try this American food!” one of them explained.