For some men, eating spicy food is a matter of machismo. For others, it is simply for excitement. For others it is in the blood.
Sometimes we eat spicy food by accident, or as the result of a practical joke. Sometimes it is part of a larger “gourmet experience.”
For me, eating spicy foods of various kinds is a good excuse to visit different restaurants I like. Eating certain things takes me down memory lane. And you get to commune with the fascinating cultures of the globe.
It all began for me with horseradish in high-school. From earliest youth, I always liked roast beef. Then, to my astonishment, I discovered that roast beef covered with horseradish was another thing altogether. It wasn’t just good; it was fun and good.
First, though, let’s put things in perspective: We gringos know NOTHING about consuming serious heat.
Our children like to eat peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches. In Mexico, the children eat ham and chili pepper sandwiches. Mexican children consume foods every day that would send our poor children to the hospital.
On the street in Mexico City, they do not sell hotdogs and Snickers bars. They sell mango slices in a plastic sleeve, covered with red pepper flakes. They sell tamales with a negative pH.
Because brevity is the sole of wit, I will just touch on a few items for your consideration.
The first is of course buffalo wings. I know some people do not approve of my favorite wing joint. You may not know that the sauces offered on the wings are: Mild, Medium, Hot, Spicy Garlic, Cajun, Samurai, ‘Three Mile Island,’ and ‘911.’
I am a Three-Mile man. I have not had the courage to order 911 wings. Three Mile is pretty frickin’ hot.
To tell you truth, I do not think that buffalo wings are where it’s at when it comes to spice. They are good; they warm the tummy. But the world offers more.
Here’s one: Penne all’arrabiata. (According to Italian cooks, Arabs are apparently very angry.) Or special tibs (at an Ethiopian restaurant). Or larb (Thai). Or even a bowl of pho with half a bottle of Vietnamese hot sauce squeezed into it.
This is going to sound lame, because it was trendy about 25 years ago. But my number one prize for favorite spicy food is: Sushi with plenty of wasabi.
Give me a tuna roll with a thumb-size dollop of wasabi, and I will be happy for hours. It excites going down. Then it keeps you company for a while–warm, energizing, thoroughly fun.