The appeal for spicy foods had always eluded me, somehow.
I love to try different things, but anytime there’s a chili pepper logo or flame attached to a dish, I tend to stay away, preferring to err on the side of mild.
I just felt I had burned my tongue too many times on hot coffee to want to put it through pain on purpose, though I appreciated the flavors of hot stuff. Jalapenos sometimes would sometimes make an appearance in my diet, and sometimes I test ed myself with wings and hot sauces, but mostly just to assure myself again that spicy foods weren’t for me.
And then something happened. I was at Sammy’s for trivia one Tuesday night and Brent and Kate got the idea to order ten super-hot boneless wings. I can’t remember what Sammy’s calls their hottest…nuclear or inferno or something…I’ll find out sometime, but the idea was we would race. The first person to eat all three of their wings would eat the final, tenth wing to signify their winning of the contest.
And so I shoved hot, spicy chunks of meat down my throat as fast as possible. Of course I lost (Brent finished first, then Kate) after a lot of water and an unscheduled tearful lap around the restaurant in case I vomited, I celebrated quietly inside. I had eaten hot stuff on purpose and survived.
Then I received instructions to eat something spicy to help me get through a rough spot from Obi-Wan KelseySchnellobi. I never told him that he was insane and that I hated spicy food (mostly fearing another patriarchal tongue-lashing) and decided to push the thought of spicy food from my mind.
But it wasn’t long before peer pressure (from a very large man) had me staring down spiciness again.
I was interviewing Lamar Adams, a former Garner High standout and recent inductee into the Elon sports hall of fame, at Buffalo Brothers, a sports bar on Capital Boulevard. I had arrived late (as usual) and he had already ordered appetizers.
I got a beer (Sam Adams Summer Seasonal…ahh…) and we started talking about the NFL. Before long, there were eight jalapeno poppers in front of us and he TOLD me to eat.
I tried one and he made me eat another. Before I knew it, the waitress was asking if I needed another beer. I realized that if the spicy food continued, I would be too plastered to ask any questions.
Next came the hot wings…I was sure to eat slowly and drink even slower, but Adams had ordered 20 and was insistent that 10 of them were mine. They paled in spiciness to the Sammy’s wings and the jalapeno poppers, but it still kept me on my toes as the interview continued and I fought to appear manly before one of the Triangle’s all-time most feared defensive tackles.
So that was twice I conquered the sinister of spice, but there was another challenge to come. Outside of spicy mustard at The Flying Saucer and helping my mom with Asian Zing wings from Buffalo Wild Wings, my next heat against heat came Sunday when an old friend took me out for sushi.
I allowed her to order, since I knew nothing of sushi and only offered her distinct instructions not to order anything too spicy.
Sure enough, everything the waiter brought had spicy in its description. Spicy tuna, spicy mayo, spicy whatever…I don’t remember, but I decided to grin and bear it. Or, as Kelsey would put it, I “manned up.”
And that, my friends, was the greatest sushi experience I had ever had. The spices played off the tunas and seaweeds and whatever the hell else I ate perfectly.
It was a taste explosion, and that’s when I realized that despite of all of my liberal food explorations that had ranged from alligator to snails, I had built up one rule: nothing spicy – a rule that needed to be broken before understood that it was one meant to be broken.
With the final barrier broken, now I’m finally free to explore any foods that tickle my fancy, not matter that there’s a biohazard logo beside it. I won’t go overboard by any means, but it feels good to open up a menu with no encumbrances.
Was it the guiding force of Kelsey that led me to this awakening or just a series of peer-pressure-riddled situations? I don’t care either way, really. Just get me two glasses of water with whatever I order and let’s eat.