the very cheap beer smells like childhood

5 p.m. always feels a little early to throw in the towel on my day, to start drinking, but RedBar’s got a happy hour within their happy hour. Between 5 and 6 (Mon-Fri) you can get cans of Tecate for a buck. And so, in these trying financial times, I parse a few bills into my wallet and head out there on Tuesdays if I’ve been productive enough to feel like I’ve earned it. And today, for some reason, I’m sitting here drinking my first Tecate of the night, maybe the eighth or ninth I’ve had in my life, and I’m having something like the Proust moment with the madeleine.

This beer tastes like arroz con pollo, the way my mom made it.

The dish is massive and takes a whole day to prepare and I remember as a kid that my mom would make it in a pot so big you could probbaly call it a vat and usually we’d invite people over for that first day of it. And then–emulating my dad’s preference–I’d eat it cold for several days afterward. It was my favorite thing she made and I’d sometimes request it for my birthday and she’d be there in the kitchen preparing it the night before.

I remember thinking of my mom’s arroz con pollo while I watched that scene in Breaking Bad where Gus and Walter are sitting together over a soup that Gus has prepared and about which he gets nostalgic, saying that the soup tastes and smells like his youth, whereupon Walter explains to him how the olfactory bulb is located close to the memory center–something like that.

The other thing I remember about my mom cooking arroz con pollo when I was a kid: standing at her hip, awestruck, while she poured an entire six pack of Miller Lite into the bubbling pot.

I’ve gotten so into IPAs lately that when somebody snaps the tab on a cheap beer and slides it my way, I don’t smell the beer–I smell a meal from the past.

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