22 May 2007

I Like It Spicy, Baby. Now, Anyway.

Holy smokes. My mouth is on fire.

I brought Indian food for lunch today. Okay, it was in a package from Trader Joe's, but still. To be fair, it did boast a spicy aromatic sauce. But come on -- grocery store spicy is usually along the lines of mild taco sauce.  Grocery store packaged delights don't pack much heat, regardless of that thermometer graphic on the box. Unless you're in the ethnic section*. Then you might find something spicy.

Trader Joe's does not have an ethnic section. TJ's mixes it up all over the damn place and surprises your ass. Or your tongue. Well, actually, who knows if my ass will be surprised later. 

It sure as hell was aromatic. The break room at work smelled gooood. That probably pissed some people off, but I live in the Pacific Northwest, so no one actually says anything if your lunch singes their nose hairs.

Anyway, lunch was tasty, but brutal.

My spice tolerance has actually come a long way. I can now go up to Level 3 (of six) at our favorite Indian restaurant. I can go to Level 4 when Normal Chef is on duty, but it's a crap shoot since you never know whether it's Normal Chef or Fire Chef back in the kitchen.  Fire Chef doesn't play. 

I used to be a complete spice wimp. We just did not eat spicy food in my family. I think it gave my dad gas. Then again, pancakes gave my dad gas. Anyway, when my ex and I were young newlyweds, he caught me scraping pepper off of an omelet. Regular, dinner-table black pepper was too spicy for me. (Trust that my ex got a lot of mileage out of that.) Tabasco? Cajun? Are you kidding?

Mild taco sauce was my tongue living on the edge, in those days.

My sister was even more of a spice wimp than I was. Until she moved to North Carolina in her late 20s. The kids and I visited from overseas. We stopped at Taco Hell for lunch one day. It was either that or Big Bubba's Beef Barn. Her youngest was probably two at the time. Sis grabbed huge handfuls of the "Fire Sauce". As opposed to mild, medium, or hot.

Me: What are you doing?

Sis: This is the best part. You can't eat this stuff without the sauce.

Me: Yeah, but that's fire sauce. The mild is over there.

Sis: You're in the South now, honey. Better buck up. Here you go, kids!

(My kids shake their heads, her kids grab for the sauce packets.)

Sis: Here, baby -- good stuff! (squirting hot sauce on her toddler's taco)

Me: What are you doing? He's practically still a baby! He's going to think food HURTS! That's so not funny!

Sis: (still squirting away) Boy's gotta learn sometime. Eat up, little man!

He loved it. My sister had overcome our childhood spice limitations.

I was passing our wimpiness on to my offspring. My kids watched their cousins with no small amount of awe. I realized my kids were destined to scrape pepper off their eggs if I didn't buck up. I did not buck up at that particular time, but my son did. He ate the sauce. He loved it. Or at least he made his cousins believe he did.

Anyway, I've since bucked up. My sister would be proud. Two of my kids have surpassed me, and can hang with Fire Chef at Level 4. My middle daughter carries on the spice wimp gene proudly. Her reaction to any hint of spice -- My mouth is on fire! -- has become a standing joke around the house. (Thus my opening sentence. Just a little tribute to her.)

Of course, this could have something to do with losing a bet to her uncle during the aforementioned visit, in which the loser had to eat a whole habanero chile pepper. Apparently, watching a 12-year-old child's throat lock up is all in good fun in North Carolina. I'm pretty sure that could actually damage a person's esophagus.

Bro-in-law is lucky I didn't find out about this until later. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have liked my version of Fun With Habaneros.

*Ethnic Section: The half-aisle in a grocery store reserved for foods which are not seen as 'Murkan foods, particularly foods with roots in Mexico or China. Foods in the ethnic section are usually expensive and may sport flags, chopsticks, or sombreros on the packaging. Our local Albertson's actually has a sign that says "Oriental" instead of "Asian" food. 

1 comment:

  1. Or the revenge wrought by a female friend upon her boytoy when he snuck Dave's Insanity Sauce onto her eggs one morning. The next night she secretly chewed up a fresh jalapeno before going down on him.

    He ended up with a blister or two (ouchy) and freshened appreciation for the cruelty of practical jokes.


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