My two guys—that would be my husband and my son—believe that the greatest quality a meal could have is that it is spicy-hot. I have placed carefully crafted plates of chicken fajitas, made with fresh cayenne peppers, in front of them, only to watch them splash Sriracha sauce all over the place and then grunt in manly tones, “Oh, yeah!” Welcome to dinner at my house.
Did you know that the Food Network even has a program called Heat Seekers devoted to this manly art of self-immolation? These two guys go all over the country looking for the hottest food they can find, and then sample it to see if they’ll die. Alright, that is a woman’s interpretation.
Every spring, my husband and I go to the nursery to get the plants and seeds that we need for our garden. Now when I say “garden,” I mean six 4’ x 8’ boxes in our backyard. It’s all we need, and since our backyard slopes downward, it works really well. Inevitably, I will be standing beside a box with a spade in my hand a few hours later, saying, “What are these? I didn’t buy these!” My husband always sneaks in a few extra trays of plants, because he has delusions of farmerdom. This year, he managed to squeeze sixteen pepper plants into one box, and then planted radishes all around them. We have bell peppers (check), cayenne peppers (check), jalapeños (o…kaaay), and habaneros (what!!). Truth be told, they are all doing spectacularly well, but I now have a little mountain of habaneros on the kitchen counter, and I don’t know what to do with them.
A couple of weeks ago, we picked our very first habanero, which David cut into tiny pieces. He sprinkled a few on his nice, normal meal and immediately got the hiccups. He was elated. Hiccups, apparently, are a sign of success. He continued to eat and reported that his scalp was getting itchy. He was beaming. Beaming and sweating. Halfway through the meal, he had to get up to blow his nose. After dinner, he pronounced the habaneros to be “the real deal,” and he and my son congratulated themselves on growing some of the hottest peppers they’d ever eaten.
Is food supposed to be painful?
I am convinced that there is some sort of cosmic contest—invisible to women—wherein the man who burns every molecule of skin off the inside of his mouth wins. He may be in horrific pain, but I’m sure that he will wear his seared mucous membranes as a badge of honor. And maybe grunt, “Oh, yeah!”