A spicy story… (about spice, you know, in culinary terms)

A spicy story… (about spice, you know, in culinary terms)

A Spicy Story…The Photo: Seafood (diver scallops and shrimp) Jambalaya @ Oyster Bay (Cape May NJ), a couple of years ago I challenged the chef to spice it to the max, the bartender leans in “are you sure about that buddy” (with an inviting yet menacing grin), being over confident and also a chili head, (and cornered into dumb testosterone driven male bravado mode)… I said “bring it on”… the bartender departed to deliver the news, and then the chef peaked out from the kitchen doors, eyed me up and down, “are you sure” (both warning me but I could see he was also charged up to meet the challenge)… I gave him the nod (how could I not, it’s like being all in and poker and then trying to pull your chips, you can’t do that!), the minutes stretched to hours… no, just minutes but it felt longer… and then the doors swing open, angels on harps played and light rained down from heaven, or not… dish delivered, looked just like the one below, but I knew it held a terrible secret of hellfire… and boy, talk about performance anxiety, now I knew how those guys on those Food network shows feel, the whole bar had apparently gotten the memo and an an entire room of eyes was set on me and my um.. prize? so… I make sure my beverages are full, all the accoutrements are set, and I dive in, ahhh, no problem, the first carriage of food passes through my mouth gate with no problem, sure, there is some warmth there, a nice tidy warmth, and the overall flavor is so delicious that maybe I did not see, or feel, the trojan fire-steed being wheeled slowly beyond my doors, to unleash the hellfire in my innards like a precisely timed demolition, but I am not there yet, the crowd, waiting for me to sweat, waiting for me to bow out, no way, no how, I can take this, after all I grow habaneros fer crissake, I take some more bites, I pause to gloat a bit perhaps, and to pace myself just in case, I have been down these roads to hell before, and performed well, so, but man, the problem is the enticing flavor, the roux was dark brown, sweet and savory, sure, spicy but the flavor was so round I kept digging in, then I noticed, a few traitors, a few beads of sweat growing on my brow, what is this ? in my exuberance I had let the flavors lead to a trap, and then I began to feel it, both in mouth and lower regions, a complete rebellion, or at least a wildfire threating the calm beauty of my inner forest, I can now picture the grin of the chef, knowing his plan has a chance to succeed, but no, I will not go gently into that spice night, I push on, I enjoy the burn but not the piling on, halfway done now, pausing a bit more often to check my brow and to have a drink, and thankfully some bread that they bake on site, a delight but more a lifeline this night, I can feel the grit of extra cayenne powder in the roux, this is not ultra level heat mind you, this is sustained abrasion, an invasion and an occupation, where as a ghost pepper can make you gag, properly applied cayenne can coat your insides with building layers of fire, but again… the flavor is so good I can’t help but delve more in, the eyes of the bar are not as trained on me anymore, I am hiding my semi-struggle well I suppose, but the bartenders, no, I am the entertainment for the night, they are watching me like hawks and jesters, I imagine not many people are dumb… I mean bold! enough to challenge the chef in this regard, but I am, and damn he knows his audience, the scallops are almost like butter, my fork slices them , no it actually gets near them and they part like the red sea, effortlessly, the shrimp ? huge fat things, with that snap when you bite into them, which makes you forget about the pepper powder keg packages you are bringing gladly into your own house…

Sorry to say… I won the day, did I suffer a but ? sure, but I loved every moment of it. To this day I go there and since it is a family place many of the faces remain the same. They all remember me, not immediately, but when I mention the story there is total recall there. Have I done it since? What do you think ? No.. Way… I just want to sit down and have a meal, leave the battles to someone else, I may have won but I certainly learned a lesson…

notes.. you people will never know what you will get here… because I don’t care about the audience…I mean, I do… but you know what I mean, you either get it or not… and I am cool with that, this is an outlet for me, a place for you to plug in and draw power out, gee, what a clever outlet analogy, or not…