[ English assignment: short paragraph on your “ideal meal”. What would your ideal meal be? ]

The ideal meal cannot be found in adulthood. The ideal meal is so steeped in tradition and memory that it can only be found in the nostalgia of childhood, for the years which have passed since that moment wash everything in warm colors and sweet flavors. Nor can the ideal meal be recreated now; it remains in the realm of childhood, preserved with perfect clarity by a mind young enough to truly appreciate simplicity at its finest.

For me, that ideal meal could only be had twice a year. It was the eagerly anticipated dinner break between a four hour dress rehearsal and curtain call, forty-five precious minutes of freedom before I would have to return to South Kitsap High School for a three hour dance recital. Despite my pudgy and uncoordinated ten year old body, as well as my affinity for sweat pants and Harley Davidson t-shirts, I was a ballerina. You would not know it from my eating habits, of course. During the dress rehearsal break of every semi-annual performance, my parents would take me out for dinner to the same restaurant: A&W. This was not your run of the mill fast-food joint, though. This A&W was a staple of the Port Orchard community, a throw-back to earlier times when you could still order malts and people other than my fifty year old father drove Model A’s and ’56 Chevies. It was not the forced retro of a 50s style diner built in the 90s, but the old-school sort of greasy spoon that reminded me of car shows and swap meets and southern California.

Like any picky ten year old who despises all deviations from tradition, I always ordered the exact same meal: two corn dogs and a root beer float. The corn dogs, like every other item at this A&W, were made with more love than is possible at any fast food joint these days. The thick coating of cornbread was perfectly fried, golden and crispy on the outside but still buttery on the inside, like breaded sunlight. I peeled the cornbread off the corn dogs in long strips, savoring the moist crumbs which clung to what were now basically hot dogs on sticks. Between bites I sipped at my root beer float, stabbing at the mass of vanilla ice cream to submerge it beneath the frigid root beer. As the ice cream slowly melted, it swirled and mixed with the root beer to form a cream-sickle-like drink, the perfect compliment to the delicately fried corn dogs. Once I had devoured the cornbread, which always happened far too quickly for my likes, I turned my attention to the breadless hot dogs. They never interested me much without their tasty coating, but under my father’s watchful eye I always made the effort to dip them in a liberal dollop of ketchup and finish them anyway. Then, having drained the last sugary drop of root beer float from its mug and licked my fingers clean of ketchup and cornbread, I prepared to have my unruly hair stuffed into a bun and don my frilly tutu. Forty-five minutes of corn dog bliss at A&W was totally worth the three hour ballet recital.

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