It happened. I was 18 years old (give or take a bit). And it was magical.
Yes, I had just experienced the best kung pao chicken of my life. And some years after that, I became obsessed with finding kung pao as good as that experience at age 18.
During this hunt, you might say I became a kung pao snob. If you and I shared a meal of kung pao chicken, I could tell you what it was lacking. My standards were high, very high.
Well, as you may imagine, with such high standards, the predictable happened. Despite visiting dozens of Chinese restaurants, rarely did I enjoy my kung pao chicken.
But, that’s the thing about obsession. Rather than give up, I kept going, my enthusiasm undiminished. It’s as if the many dozens of mediocre dishes didn’t matter. What mattered was that the next place might have what I need. After many years in the wilderness, something magical happened.
The place: a cafe serving mainly American food, inside of the Aladdin Casino in Las Vegas.
The dish: Kung pao chicken.
The outcome: Bliss. The chicken gods had answered my prayers. I rated the dish five stars!
Finally, after more than a decade of searching, I tasted something better than my 18-year-old self had tasted.
Yes, despite eating at a standard cafe, not even a Chinese restaurant, I had just tasted, experienced, savored, the best kung pao chicken flavor, of my life.
And here I had been searching at Chinese restaurants. I hadn’t thought to search at standard cafes. Funny, right? I had zero expectations of what had happened, but it did.
After Aladdin, I continued to hunt for great kung pao chicken. Alas, after trying many, many places, I’ve rarely found anything I could rate as equal to, or even near, the Aladdin version.
Years later, I found out I have a gluten issue. Now I couldn’t eat kung pao at 99% of the Chinese restaurants. I didn’t want to further damage my digestive system and decrease my lifespan. (Kung pao usually has gluten/wheat ingredients, such as soy sauce. Most dark sauces do at Chinese restaurants.)
But the chicken gods smiled upon me again during a quick vacation to Portland, Oregon. There, I found a tasty gluten free kung pao dish. I gave it four stars, which is rare for me.
My wife says nostalgia has colored my vision. Maybe. Nostalgia certainly can influence us, no doubt. Yet I keep searching, even if she doesn’t understand my obsession. Sure, it’s rare to find a Chinese place that has gluten free kung pao. But my obsession continued, just at a slower pace.
Finally, one day I think, “Why rely on luck to enjoy kung pao? I’m going to make my own.” I watched YouTube videos, looked at websites, and finally decided on a recipe.
Result? It may not be Aladdin quality, but it’s better than 99% of the places I’ve tried. I give it a solid four stars.
Now, if I ever want to savor the flavor of kung pao chicken, I don’t have to depend upon the chicken gods smiling upon me. I can make it myself.
… … …
This hypnotic story could be interpreted in so many ways. How did you interpret it?
If you’re thinking too hard, you’re crowding out your subconscious. Let it do the heavy lifting for you.
When I’m working on something challenging, I’ll purposely get up and leave the challenge alone for a while. My subconscious will then process the data. And later, it’ll often give me insights I could never have gotten by pure analytical thinking.
Here’s a testimonial from one of my scientist clients.
“After struggling with connecting space and time, I took William’s advice and asked my subconscious to solve it. I then made William pancakes and washed his Rolls Royce, as William said chores would help.
“While washing his car, a single drop of water hit the ground, and I realized that space and time weren’t two. They’re one thing. Space-time!”
– Albert Einstein, talking about his theory of relativity which was published in 1915.
Albert was a good scientist. But he makes great pancakes. If you’re thinking I look too young to have had Einstein as a client, well, I’ve got good genes. And I moisturize.