Death is the ultimate bliss. The french call the orgasm “la petite mort”, the little death, referencing the euphoric nature of a momentary release from self-consciousness, from the tangled web of stress, worries, and threats that life is heir to. Victims rescued from drowning recount the warm, blissful feeling of acceptance that washes over oneself when faced with an undeniable, undefiable fate. The relaxation and return into the void of non-being is a conscious mind’s highest state of ecstacy, the inevitable and perfect conclusion of a being brought from nothing and destined to return to nothing.
As for myself, I believe seraphic euphoria can be found at the Hillsboro General Store Cafe, smothered underneath two scoops of homemade vanilla ice cream.
The Hillsboro cafe from the outside, like most buildings in Hillsboro, New Mexico, is an unassuming cube of adobe architecture. Sitting patiently across the street from the town post office since 1877, the building that now houses the Hillsboro Cafe has been home to a number of business ventures throughout its almost century-and-a-half of existence.
Biking through Hillsboro, starving as usual, I pulled my bike to the side of the road and stepped into the Cafe. With relics from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the Spanish-American War on display, the Cafe is firmly rooted in history. Walking in, you feel as if you’ve intruded into a company of actors rehearsing for an upcoming Arthur Miller play. The ambiance of the Cafe is matched only by the great American Romantic novels or Victorian works of art from the turn of the century. It is an ambiance that is indivisible with the place itself, intrinsic to its existence. Ambiance is almost too crude a word, the Cafe is, at its heart, authentic. It offers a genuine, fragile authenticity that will almost certainly be sullied in my effort to capture it in writing. The timeless Cafe and its caretakers seem to be as elegant and effortless an extension of the Earth as the trees and grasses surrounding them. It is a place in which the wood of the walls is continuous with the people inside of it, and gentility, hospitality, and history are as much a part of the structure as the clay baked to the outside.
I ordered the Chile Con Carne, and waited in my banquet chair absorbing forgotten Motown hits from the electric speakers plugged in and left to rest on the counter with their wires haphazardly strewn about. There is a clunk as a patron battles with the aged latch on the front door, and the register makes an anachronistic “ka-ching” whenever someone pays in cash. These small touches of realism give the Cafe the distinct unreality of incarnate perfect harmony that fiction could never create.
My food arrived, every bite was perfect. Despite its humble presentation, this cup of Chile Con Carne transported me into a world without time. All at once I was in a storybook eating spoonfuls of the highest platonic form of food. The act of chewing seemed profane. The potatoes tasted like real potatoes, which is all too rare. The beef and chiles were seasoned with the discerning quality of an artisan who produces only uncompromising art. The tortilla was warm and was made by a human being with human hands. With every bite it was as if an 18th century sailor’s grandmother had prepared her grandson his favorite meal before he was setting off to sea and I had stolen his dinner.
I scraped the bowl clean and ordered a slice of Bumbleberry Pie for dessert. I have never heard of nor have any idea what a Bumbleberry is. From my experience, I can only assume it is a fruit delivered to the Cafe once per millennia on a golden chariot from heaven driven by a team of Food Network chefs and led by Dionysus.
Rarely have I had an experience so exceptional. With the first bite my face spread into an inconcealable smile, and I had to stifle my laughter. The pie was perfect beyond words. It was perfect in the way only something flawed and human can be perfect. When you look your spouse in the eyes and tell them that in spite of their mistakes and imperfections and stupidity you love every fiber of their immaculate being, you know the taste of this pie. The subtle tartness of the Bumbleberry, not too sweet, the unimpeachable creaminess of the vanilla ice cream, the flaky, buttery texture of the crust all joined together in a chorus of flavors that sang “this is what life is for”. The banality and endless drudgery of day-to-day life serve only to elevate and emphasize an experience like this by comparison. Seldom does something as simple as a slice of pie bring meaning to the entirety of existence, but it is undeniable. It is, in short, transcendent.
This is food that heals wounds and saves lives. There is a certain magic that humans are capable of that isn’t talked about often today. Giving yourself entirely into what you produce has an effect that is more than a materialist viewpoint might intimate. This isn’t just very good food created by a person who is very skilled at their craft. It is a defiant testimony in the face of God that despite the pain and suffering that we are naturally faced with as human beings, despite the insurmountable challenges and inevitability of our erasure from existence, we can work to create good in this life. This food is a sacrament offered by one feeble person to another in a dark abyss of despair and turmoil, so that a small glimmer of joy, however doomed to extinction, may shine through the vale of earthly decay.
I give it a 6 out of 10, food was decent, Arby’s is right down the road though.