Sweet, cold, with a spicy dash of salt, strong enough to make your head spin, margaritas made from the special family recipe were a refreshing summer treat, and one glass was never enough…until I learned to look through the matrix and separate delusion from reality.
The secret to the special family recipe was fresh lime juice, instead of the commercial powdered mix so often served in restaurants and bars. It took a lot of squeezing to get three tablespoons worth out of the stubborn little fruits, and the work was part of the ritual. Then into the pitcher went one-half cup each of tequila and triple sec, and the proportions had to be exactly right, otherwise the drink would come out too sour. When made properly, the drink was wonderful, although it was a lot of alcohol for someone like me who rarely drinks more than a single beer. After the first margarita my head would be swimming, and after the second, I’d have to lie down on the couch until equilibrium was restored. So the experience, as pleasurable as it seemed, wasn’t really optimal. If you had asked me what I wanted, it was the cold sweet sensation and a bit of relaxation, but not to be knocked out of action.
One day I ordered a margarita at a bar, but when it arrived, to my displeasure it was quite sour. I was about to send it back, when I experienced a revelation: as an adult, I didn’t need all my food and drink to be as sweet as bubblegum. I took another sip, intrigued by the strange sour sensation.
It was about this time that I began cutting back on sugar for health reasons. I adjusted the proportions of the family recipe, significantly reducing the triple sec, which is what lends the drink its sweetness.
Later on, I became aware that instead of drinking margaritas, some people sip straight tequila with a little lime juice. This seemed very macho and stylish. While it will make you pucker up, unsweetened lime juice has an interesting flavor. In this configuration, I was sipping the drink more slowly, it lasted longer, and I would get a sense of relaxation without my head spinning in circles.
And then one day, I looked in the mirror and admitted to myself that I didn’t really like the taste of unsweetened lime juice.
The Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius once wrote:
Where there are things which appear most worthy of our approval, we ought to lay them bare and look at their worthlessness and strip them of all the words by which they are exalted. For outward show is a wonderful perverter of reason.
Or put differently, be careful of how we describe things. Relative to their true essence, we may be deluding ourselves.
The moral of this story is that the margarita turned out to be an illusion. It was a creation of the matrix — a product that caused me to consume beyond real need. After all, on a hot summer day, to quench my thirst, I could have drunk water. The lime juice wasn’t a factor. Clearly I didn’t need that much alcohol. The sneaky culprit creating the impression of a wonderful experience was just sugar. Triple sec contains 11 grams per ounce, which means a single margarita prepared according to the family recipe contains 22 grams or 100 calories worth of sugar, not much different from a candy bar.
Today, from time to time I’ll sip a little bit of tequila. It has an interesting flavor, provides a hint of relaxation, and my body quickly tells me when I’ve had enough. And while I still have a sweet tooth, I can’t say that I miss the margarita, as I’ve got more important things to focus on.