It took me about a week to pull the trigger. All week, I have wanted to eat at the Pizza Hut lunch buffet. Not because I particularly like it, in all of its greasy, over-salted glory; but because I remembered being a kid and thinking it was the greatest treat on earth. I was feeling nostalgic.


I grew up in poverty. There was usually money to buy the basics, never more. We drank milk from our goats and cows, and mom made our bread and our clothes. Meals were hearty, but not fancy, and snacks in between meals were out of the question. I had never heard of the word “gourmet” until I moved out of rural New Mexico as a teenager. Even then, I couldn’t dream of some of the Michelin-rated restaurants in the world. Fancy food was so far out of my experience that I couldn’t fathom its existence.


Once in a while, as a kid, my folks had enough extra cash to take us out to lunch. We’re talking a couple of times a year. It was a huge treat to get to go to the Pizza Hut lunch buffet in my small town on one of America’s least important blue highways.


But oh, I remember the excitement. Pizza felt so exotic, so foreign. At that point, I don’t think I’d ever eaten pasta; beans, cornbread and ground beef being the standard fare in my house.


And my, oh my. The salty, fatty, all-you-can-eat deliciousness that made up the lunch buffet was enough to blow my mind. I even liked the salad bar, where my plate was mostly sunflower seeds and shredded cheddar.


There was no such thing as all-you-can-drink sodas, so we each got a single glass to last the entire meal. Sometimes, if my dad was feeling generous, he would buy an extra pitcher and I would glaze over with excitement because I could have a second cup. Actually, I never got a full cup because I had so many sisters. It would come out to about an extra ¾ cup.


After I met and married my husband, he determined to show me the world. I didn’t know that a serious foodie lie hidden in this unsophisticated, rural Mexican girl. Over the course of our marriage, I’ve dined in some of the most delicious restaurants: from fondue in Interlaken, Switzerland to hole-in-the-wall Thai in Vancouver, from steak in downtown Chicago to shrimp in a mob-controlled Italian restaurant in Miami’s Little Havana. He’s flown me overnight to LA just to have dinner because he thought I’d like the restaurant.


I’ve turned into a total food snob – researching well in advance of a trip where to find the best coffee, best cheese, best beignets… and I’m willing to walk whatever distance or shell out whatever cash it takes to get them. I can tell you which restaurant has the best oatmeal in Quebec City and which has the best callas cakes in New Orleans. I still dream of the raw oysters at Balthazar in NYC. I’m that serious. I really, really, really love good food.


And Pizza Hut? Oh, we’ve had it over the years, but I can’t remember the last time I ate it without guilt over carbs and macros and fat. And I turn my nose up at the oil glistening on top (probably soy…ew) and the odd feeling that I’ve sat down at a salt-lick with the first bite. Here in Colorado, one can find gluten-free, GMO-free, fair wage, soy-free, meat-free, dairy-free (taste-free?) pizza in every restaurant. Why would I go to Pizza Hut?


But last week, I craved it. I tried to shame myself out of it, but I finally said, f*** it and went. All by myself.


And as I took the first bite, I smiled, thinking of my dad and mom at the table, my younger sisters squabbling over the last swig of coke in the pitcher, and the sacrifices my parents made to give me that once a year treat.


So for a moment today, that pizza was more delicious than anything I had eaten before or since. I didn’t even dab the oil off with my napkin. I’m not going to lie: as I sit here a few hours later, my fingers have swelled to the size of sausages and I feel nauseous (and the top of my mouth is burned because I’m impatient. Some things never change.)  I’ll fast tomorrow…but today, cheers to the memories. Thanks, Mom and Dad.