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I absolutely love hot food.  It has to hurt going in and hurt even worse going out.  Yesterday two gay male friends of mine treated me to food at an Asian restaurant.  The owner was going around asking some people if everything was ok at their table.  He was also friends with my friends so he made a special trip to our table to greet us.  The owner asked what he might recommend the chef to prepare for me.  One of my friends told the owner that I was one of those girls who liked life to be a little spicy.  “Actually very spicy,” I added.  “Unbearably hot is even better!”  “Oh I can do that,” the owner smiled.

He returned to the kitchen and came back with a skinny blackish pepper that looked like a crinkle French fry.  I also noticed that he was holding it with chopsticks.  Could it be that acidic?  “What about this one?”  “Ok, sure,” I replied.  One of my friends began giggling and told me I was nuts.  He is a retired biologist from California who had seen that pepper in pictures but never in person.  He told me that it was one of the hottest peppers in existence, and far hotter than habanero peppers.   “Yea, whatever,” I said.  There has never been a pepper that didn’t know who was their daddy, or in this case, their momma.

A few minutes later, the owner returned with a small plate of beef with oyster sauce, complete with the little black pepper mixed into the sauce.  I noticed that the seeds looked like they had been crushed with a mortar and pestle before cooking since they were now the size of pepper mill flakes.  I also noticed that he kept the place far from his face, and my friends backed away from the table to avoid the steam.  I guess it was already burning their eyes while I must have been used to it.  The owner then returned to a “safe distance” and watched us intently.

We continued talking and ate normally.  After the first bite, I felt nothing.  I chewed and swallowed and took a second bite.  My friends were laughing and discussing shoes they had seen at a nearby store and the iron penis that was the door handle to the shop itself.  Five seconds into the second bite I began to feel very warm.  I drank some water and loaded a third piece of beef onto my spoon with rice.  This time I had a big black pepper as well as more sauce on the fork.  After I started chewing the third bite it hit me.  My friends stopped talking about their Hugo Boss loafers and snapped their heads to stare at me.  I was unconsciously fanning my lips.  They began to swell and it hurt.  I felt like I just drank molten lava!  My friends started giggling as I grabbed my water glass as a reflex and drank.  That was a mistake as the burn became worse.  I then grabbed a big chunk of rice with my hands and stuffed it into my mouth.  That was a bigger mistake because there was still a small amount of sauce on it.  1+1=3.  There was now a 16 alarm fire in my mouth.  Everyone was laughing at me now like I’m acting out an “I Love Lucy” episode where Ricky is about to come home and the house is a disaster.  I ran for the washroom screaming, losing one of my high-heels in the process.  Of course the door was locked and was in use by another customer.   On instinct, I swung around and ran for the front door of the restaurant, causing a waiter to dive out of my way, and headed for the hotel across the street wearing only one shoe.  The bewildered door-guard just stood there as I plowed head-first into the lobby like Reggie White trying to sack a quarterback in the NFL.  Nobody protested as I flung open the door to the ladies room and stuck my head under the faucet.  The attendant said something to me in Filipino that I can’t remember anymore.  I was too busy rinsing and spitting with water, gargling, and doing whatever else I could to stop the burning.

Ten minutes later I returned to the restaurant, barefoot from across the street and holding my shoe.  My friends were still laughing at me.  “Shut-up,” was all I could manage to say.  My hair was a mess and dried tears were still visible on my face from my eyes watering so fiercely.  I was still sniffling from my irritated sinuses.  The owner was so amused that he brought me a very cold halo-halo and didn’t charge my friends for the beef.

Looking back at this evening, I must admit that it was hilarious and the crowded restaurant got an incredible floor show.  The only problem is tomorrow when “part II” visits me at the toilet after I drink a cup of coffee.  I’m planning to get drunk first.  Maybe an anesthesiologist would be an even better help…

January 21, 2005

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