Sad Donuts and Meh Tacos

by Heather Bell, MPH, RD, LDN

Maybe there’s a new restaurant that you’ve been wanting to try–or a new recipe that you’re really excited about making. So you drive all the way there and place your order, or you spend hours slow-cooking a dish (and flailing around with a blender to boot, right before the dish is supposed to be served — seriously, who creates a recipe where you’re wrangling broilers and appliances at the last minute?).  And then you bite into your much-anticipated dish and  it’s… meh. It’s not bad — we’re not necessarily talking burned to a crisp, or mis-measured ingredients or anything — just a big let-down for your taste buds, which were clamoring for something super-yummy, something MORE.

Food moments like this bum me out. I remember finally getting the chance to visit a donut bakery that everyone was raving about. I went in intending to do some serious donut purchasing for self, friends, and family, and I came out with a hefty box-o-donuts and a credit card receipt that boggles my mind even two years later. When I got home, I opened the box, took a big bite of Boston cream donut (with chocolate ganache and real vanilla custard) and thought–

I’ve had yummier at Dunkin’s.

SUCH a bummer. But here’s the ridiculous thing: I didn’t want to accept what my mouth was telling me. I WANTED that super-yummy pay off. So I cut a piece from another donut. No joy. They weren’t awful, but they were nothing like I’d imagined they’d be. I finally brought them over to my friend (who previously had the donuts at a farmer’s market and loved them). I think (particularly with that receipt burning a hole in my purse) I was hoping that they’d magically turn yummy for SOMEBODY, dammit. But evidently it was an off-day for the bakery, because my friend agreed with my assessment—these were not the droids donuts I was looking for.

There can be a temptation in moments like this to continue eating anyway, hoping against hope that the pleasurable pay-off will be delivered. Because otherwise, we think to ourselves, I’m going to have to watch myself throw away thirty-something dollars worth of $%&!* pastry. And we’ll have to sit with the feeling that we didn’t get the pleasure we were hoping for. That stings– Especially if we feel that we really NEEDED the pleasure or the distraction that the food offered us.

The truth, though, is that some eating experiences are disappointing. When faced with the choice between accepting the reality of despondent donuts and letting go, or continuing to eat in a way that will leave us over-full, cranky, and STILL unsatisfied, it’s probably best to mourn the meh and move on, reassuring ourselves that the next meal or snack will do a better job of satisfying us.

Unless you’ve made bland %$&*@ tacos, of course.