The Pecos Bill Effect


Urgency Day 79

500 Things Item 409: Chocolate-themed cook book

  • History: Last minute gift that was never gifted
  • Value: $15.95- yikes!
  • Parting Pain: Cautionary tale—never pay retail for books!
  • Un-possessing: Gift, finally

Within my tribe, I am kept around for a couple of skills:

  1. My chocolate chip cookie baking.
  2. My 24/7/365 ability to get family and friends with screaming children quickly out of the Magic Kingdom.

Clearly and alas, I do not live in the Magic Kingdom; however, touring loved ones know to keep all my contact information handy—as in laminated or tattooed on one’s person—whilst visiting The Happiest Place on Earth ™. When the inevitable meltdown occurs, I become a personalized remote GPS, guiding frazzled Mouseketeers toward air conditioned comfort, drinks, and sanity. It’s a gift.

But, while appreciated for a longer time than my Disney-whispering skills, my reputation for making the best chocolate chip cookies has recently come under some scrutiny. I have two theories about this:

  1. Since going gluten free, all my baking is greeted with a hopeful, “Is there gluten in this?”
  2. It’s the Pecos Bill Effect.

Pecos Bill: Legendary American cowboy, frontiersman, and 37 years ago, themed-restaurant seller of The Best Chili in the Magic Kingdom, if not the whole dang world— according to my father.

My father had the not-uncommon habit of eating something once and declaring it The Best Ever. He would then talk about it, reminisce about it, praise it endlessly and beyond reason, and systematically plot his return for more. Years later, our family’s entire second tour of Disney World was organized around daddy getting his longed-for bowls of Pecos Bill chili.

Which he then hated.

Some might call this the Tom Wolfe Effect, You Can’t Go Home Again. In my family, however, it’s called the Pecos Bill Effect: 

Nothing is ever as good as you remember.

I think this is true of a lot of things. The first wonderful experience is more than just the chili or the wine-tasting chardonnay. We forget to factor in the setting, the friends, the warm breeze and the angle of the sun, and the favorite song playing in the background. We reduce a whole great experience to just the sense memory of taste.

And probably my chocolate chip cookies aren’t as over-the-moon wonderful as people have kindly remembered them being. Probably I bring them out under optimal conditions of camaraderie and fun, and the associated sensation of warm bites of butter and sugar and chocolate are simply what everyone mentally files away under the heading “wonderful.”

Here’s one thing I can promise: I will always share my honest-to-goodness cookie recipe, no omissions; I swear! If you enjoy them a little more this time than next time, chock it up to the weather.

And I’ll remember my daddy and Pecos Bill.


5 Responses to “The Pecos Bill Effect”

  1. boysgonewild Says:

    As my friend Mike (with celiac’s) likes to say, “Gluten has no flavor. Butter, on the hand…..”

  2. sthibeault Says:

    Butter and bacon. Mmmm, bacon.

  3. Donna Says:

    Oh, Dear Sister-o-mine, yours ARE the best chocolate cookies ever. The Pecos Bill effect has no effect here. Yours are unlike any others. I believe it’s the abundance in proportion of the secret ingredient . And no, we don’t keep you around for just the reasons you mentioned.

    Stay cool.

  4. sthibeault Says:

    No secret ingredients! I swear! It’s our mother’s recipe, you know, Neslay Toulhouse…

  5. melanie Says:

    Although you say it’s a gift to be the person-who-finds-family members-that-need-wrangling, like most gifts, it’s also a burden! I honor you and your burdens.

    About food and memories – heed my words: It’s always about the angle of the sun. If you have a meal that you know is too burnt, wait for 5 o’clock at night, slight breeze, no humidity, warm weather, sun is not in your eyes, pour wine first, then serve burnt meal. Works every time.

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