Saturday, November 20, 2010

super hot heat

speaking of delicious this piece by ryan scott about how hot his dad liked his food reminds me of the time when i worked for campbell soup co.

the soups we made in the factory were not hot at all. for from it. but the employees were a multi-cultural lot with many mexicans. mind you, i was 18-19 years old when i worked at campbell so i thought any one over the age of 25 was older. there were a lot of older mexicans who i'd see in the lunch room wolfing down chili peppers. these chilies ranged from large green to small reds. i'm not an expert at all, then and now, on the heat of various chilies. i've no idea whether the wattage of the pepper depends on its size and color.

nevertheless, on my lunch break i'd see invariably these older hombres wolfing down these chilies of various sizes and hues. and invariably i'd watch as the eyes began to water, the faces flushed red, sweat developed on their brows, and snot dropped from their noses. always, after the initial heat and swallow these dudes would grab for another pepper.

i didn't understand it. why suffer so in the name of pleasure. could it be that the sensation of pain co-existed on the same gene as the one for pleasure? could be, i suppose, because i'm often asked why do i love extreme films. how do i get pleasure from those types of movies. or better still, what is it about poetry that gets my blood pumping and synapses firing. i'm often asked that. telling someone i'm a poet is akin to declaring myself a bedwetter. nothing wrong with that, i guess, but i wouldn't advertise, goes the popular thinking.

okay, back to the chilies. i'd watch these old dudes eat shit that seemed so hot that one would need to wear asbestos gloves to just to hold the peppers. it happened. my own experience with the hot stuff. i worked graveyard shift, which was between 10:00 pm to 7:00 am. by lunch-time i was pretty tired. i headed to the cafeteria and ordered my usual burger and pepsi. between the grill and the cash register was a tray for condiments. the usual array of stuff like salt, pepper, ketchup and mustard. and also, a jar of large green chili peppers. maybe my mind snapped. because those peppers looked yummy.

i took one of those peppers and put it on my tray. i mean, i ask in hindsight, how hot could it have been. the chili just looked so delicious and it smelled wonderful. i ate my burger and luckily didn't finish my pepsi because i took a fairly big bite of the pepper. i swallowed without tasting. that's when the heat hit. oh fuck. it was like biting into molten lead. pain upon pain upon pain. mucous flowed and my eyes teared up so badly i couldn't see. i was in a world of hurt. i could've drank a thousand gallons of pepsi and still not put out the fire. i don't recall if anyone noticed my pain or the snot running down my face. i did my best to pull thru even if i wanted to run to the nurse's station and ask for a bandage for my bleeding tongue. i finished the shift alright. i never wanted to see another chili ever again.


At 8:54 PM, Blogger Jim K. said...

hhaa...yeah, wtf?

I do understand certain uses
for the heat, in my cooking.
One point is where you can just
tell there is heat. That point
causes food flavors to multiply.
2 drops of Tabasco in clam chowder.
The other is where you open up the
nose a bit. That doesn't take much:
a "one-pepper" rating on the menu.
Actually pops open a chronically
stuffy nose better than any drug.
But that's 1/100th of the
hot-lover levels. I think they're
in it for the endophins or
something. It destroys flavor
past the 2-pepper level.

At 9:25 PM, Blogger richard lopez said...

i like tobasco a lot and my tolerance for the hot has increased over the years. it's impossible not to love mexican cuisine and not love the chilies too. i tried, once, one of those boutique hot sauces like 'endorphin rush'. just a small drop in a large dish. i don't recall the heat. but i never dared to do it again. back in the '90s there was a brief vogue of these boutique hot sauces which are still sold at farmers' markets and such. i have a book published by a bay area press that categorizes these hot sauces by region, heat and flavor. the best part of the book is the photos of these cool bottles and labels. skulls and crossbones, pin-up girls, and so forth. an art unto itself and outside the contents of the bottles.


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