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Murder on the Capsaicin Express
07-13-2016, 09:17 AM
Post: #104
RE: Murder on the Capsaicin Express
I can relate to this story. Perhaps an amusing anecdote might be in order.

In 1985, I had the opportunity to participate in my university's cultural-student exchange program. Members of our university would spend a semester in Mérida, Yucatán, México, living with host families. The idea was to immerse the students in a foreign land, encourage them to see how other countries live, and encourage their students' growth. As this was just at the beginning of the global economy and Al Gore had not yet invented the internet, such programs would promote understanding between nations. It was a great idea and, quite frankly, it worked very well. I learned a ton about Mexican lifestyle, culture, and became quite adept at Spanish (as the accent marks in the second sentence above attest).

So, there I was, a suburbanite from southeast of Cleveland, Ohio, sitting at my host family's dinner table, surveying the feast before my eyes, consisting of rice, black beans (which I love!), an incredible salad, steak, and tortillas (with which I have fallen in love). Smells. Flavors. Humidity. And sauces. Yes, the sauces. There were onion-vinegar sauces. Picante sauces. And a little dish of what looked like diced red vegetable things in vinegar with a plastic spoon (which should have been my first clue, along with the guy in the hazmat suit standing next to it).

Wishing to show my acculturation and open mindedness, along with impressing the host family's most fetching 19 year old daughter (who couldn't have been more disinterested in your humble author), I selected my tortilla, spreading a mixture of rice and black beans, and diced onions. Then, to top it off, your unsuspecting correspondent shoveled the diced vegetable things in vinegar sauce onto the taco. At first there was a gasp from the host mother, along with a courteous warning, "Ay, Juan. Ten cuidado. Pica. Pica mucho." Well, not having mastered Spanish, I had no idea what "pica, pica mucho" meant. I learned. That expression is now indelibly seared into my memory as well as my throat. It means, "It's spicy. Really spicy." It literally means, "it bites. It bites a lot". At this point, discretion should have been the better part of valor. But, no. I charged forward, expecting to enjoy my taco.

Now, remember, Mexicans tend to be more unobtrusive than we Americans. Where we 'gringos' tend to charge ahead in the face of potential calamity, Mexicans are more likely to be restrained or standoffish. For example, if we in the States break something we say, "I broke a plate". In Mexico, the statement is, "se me rompió el plato", which translates into to "the plate broke itself to me". That is not a criticism; on the contrary, it is an observation that, linguistically and culturally, Mexicans have a different concept of personal responsibility for one's idiotic actions, and they tend to be more forgiving and understanding when you do something monumentally stupid. Lesson learned. Now, back to the story.

So, I had made my black bean, rice, onion and sauce taco, poised to devour it with reckless abandon. At this point, I should have taken a clue from the family members at the table. Instead of wrestling the taco from my hands and instructing me that what I was about to do was supremely dumb, they all had put their respective cutlery on their plates and were watching me. The mother was concerned. The sons were giddy with anticipation. The fetching 19 year old daughter (whom I wanted impress with my culinary abilities) was simply watching me with amusement. Did I notice that? Nope. I forged ahead. And bit into my taco. The mother gasped. And I began to chew. And chew.

That is when my world exploded. Not a slow burn. A nuclear detonation. My tongue burned. My eyes melted. The back of head shot cranial debris all over the wall (the cook was none too pleased about that). My throat constricted and my face swelled to gargantuan proportions. The sweat. Ah, yes, the sweat. It soaked my shirt. My hands trembled and my stomach would have none of it. At some point I lost consciousness. When I crawled back to land of the living, I saw that everyone at the table was staring at me, the mother fixed with a horrified expression, the sons fell out of their chairs laughing, and the 19 year old daughter simply shook her head and chuckled. The father sat there, stoic, and passed me a bowl of sugar, saying, "Toma. El azucar te ayuda. Te presento al habanero. Pica. Pica mucho."

And that, my friends, was my introduction to the habanero chile.

jvb
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Messages In This Thread
Murder on the Capsaicin Express - Brutus - 04-19-2010, 08:00 PM
RE: Murder on the Capsaicin Express - spudpotatohead - 04-20-2010, 05:18 PM
RE: Murder on the Capsaicin Express - spudpotatohead - 04-20-2010, 07:27 PM
RE: Murder on the Capsaicin Express - Ani - 10-16-2011, 10:17 PM
RE: Murder on the Capsaicin Express - ENTREWHO - 04-21-2010, 06:52 AM
RE: Murder on the Capsaicin Express - zenjen - 04-29-2010, 12:04 AM
RE: Murder on the Capsaicin Express - zenjen - 05-01-2010, 09:02 PM
RE: Murder on the Capsaicin Express - Rey - 03-24-2011, 10:50 AM
RE: Murder on the Capsaicin Express - Rey - 03-25-2011, 07:42 AM
RE: Murder on the Capsaicin Express - Rey - 04-01-2011, 08:35 AM
RE: Murder on the Capsaicin Express - Jenn - 03-08-2012, 07:41 AM
RE: Murder on the Capsaicin Express - Jenn - 03-08-2012, 10:06 AM
RE: Murder on the Capsaicin Express - johnburger - 07-13-2016 09:17 AM

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