Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I've heard that pregnant woman sometimes get cravings for some pretty outlandish, unconventional combinations of things to eat. . . whether they're edible or not. Mac and cheese with lobster tail is quite common. Grilled cheese with Gain laundry detergent . . . not so much. These cravings usually pass, and a normal diet is resumed (even though the husband has a much harder time getting off his "empathy diet for two").

Well, I know I'm not pregnant (I hope), and although I LOVE the smell of Gain, I haven't had the urge to sprinkle it all over my Post Toasties in the morning (I really don't eat any breakfast, but I thought the imagery would work for the general reader). What I HAVE had an insatiable craving for lately (3 months now, qualifying it as more than a craving, fad, or "Tonight Show" host guarantee) is for something with much less "dirt-lifting" capabilities as any laundry soap. I've truthfully been addicted to


(I don't know how to type a Tilda. Perhaps I'll figure it out by the time I'm through with this post and these three plump, verdant, spicy jalapeno peppers currently in front of me). By addiction, I mean that I can't even do a decent math problem anymore without a fiery sensation in my mouth and some masticated seeds in my belly.

I've eaten so many lately that I can't even support my habit by shopping at the local HEB, not only because it was eating a hole in my wallet, but because they weren't eating a big enough hole in my stomach (weren't hot enough). I've resorted to shopping at CostCo, a place I used to make fun of for stocking a 5-gallon tub of mayonnaise. Now I've embraced their 6 pound, 4 ounce container of pre-sliced AND whole jalepnos (not yet) which are both cheap ($6) and sufficiently hot (4600 Scoville heat units).

My first trip to the warehouse superstore, I bought two containers and was barely able to make it through the check-out line before I dug into the one containing the whole jalapenos (wait for it). How embarrassed was I when I hit the exit door and had to explain my pepper addiction to the lady with the Black Sharpie, and that the two "unaccounted" jalepeños (DID IT!) were evident on my breath. Talking to her up close avoided me a nasty confrontation with CostCo security (who incidentally wield MUCH larger and MUCH sharper Sharpies).

On my second trip to the store (after I ran out of the first batch), I was determined to buy enough jalapeños (Two in a row!) for any pepper enthusiast trapped in a bomb shelter. I bought a thousand containers!!! (actually, it was only 4, but the cashier looked at me as if it were 1000 and that I had plans to use them in some kind of chemical warfare . . . perhaps the look was because of the 5 gallon jar I mayonnaise I bought that day--who uses all of THAT?!)

With every meal, I found myself loading up with heaps and heaps of the glorious peppers.

Breakfast: Breakfast tacos? Make mine a harvest of jalapenos (missed one), oh, and if you can wrap it up in a tortilla and add a few scrambled eggs and a strip of bacon, that would be great!

Lunch: I usually only drink water for lunch. Now I was eating at least two full peppers and, surprisingly, less water (the heat never seemed to bother me, and whole jalapeños (redemption) are so moist that you actually end up squirting an unsuspecting victim no less than 5 feet away as you bite into one.

Snack: A new eating time of day I have devoted exclusive to munching on whole jalapeños.

Dinner: This is usually with the family. It doesn't matter if it's Hamburger Helper (business idea: "Jalapeño Helper"), New York Strips, Deluxe Cheeseburgers with Jalapeño Jack Cheese marinated in jalapeño juice with fried jalapeño slices on top, I add I giant heap of sliced jalapeños to the top of everything. Surprisingly, no one in my family wants to kiss me after dinner, not even my two dogs.

I can't explain the sudden craving and tolerance for this pepper. I don't want Habañeros, Serranos, or ghost peppers--they're just painful. I just want the heat and taste of the jalapeño, but that's just as odd. Growing up, even though it was in the Rio Grande Valley where everything was Mexican Cuisine and Salsa was king, I had ZERO tolerance for heat ("pica" not "calor"). I was a lightweight "Bolio!" My friend once "tricked" me, in 2nd grade, into eating a whole jalapeno (he told me it was the non-Tilda type, which was more like a pickle than a jalapeño . . . not to mention the fact that he was going to give me a "Washington" for my daring feat. Aside from getting a piece of popcorn stuck in my throat for over a week, it was the worst childhood experience of my life. I got my quarter (not even a dollar!), but I spent the rest of the night doing the "Curly Shuffle" all over the living room floor as my stomach distended from gallons of water I thought would quench the fire.

Since then, I've stayed as far away from them as I could. Pickles were too similar in texture, crunch, and color that I couldn't even watch "Larry the Cucumber" on "Veggie Tales" with my kids when they were young (I know . . . he's a cucumber, not a pickle), thereby missing an important chapter of their lives because of a disturbing chapter in mine.

NOW, I'm buying my own raw peppers at a farmer's market, pickling them by the pounds, and storing them in my garage as if I were some colonial Puritan, eagerly anticipating the day whereby I can open them and chomp them down jar by jar. Not only can I not explain my sudden appetite for them (like I can for the Jonas Brothers' music--my KIDS like them), but I have no explanation why I have a new-found tolerance for "pica" heat.

Why just a couple of days ago, I was at an all-you-can-eat Chines buffet (please don't ask why, just realize that I have a HORRIBLE short-term memory) with some friends, and I had loaded on my plate all the "spicy" crusty entrees that were coagulating under a heat lamp. From "Spicy Joe's Chicken" (is Joe a Chinese guy?) to "Chicken with Brocolli and Jalapeños," I had my plate piled with the spiciest, least-fresh (apparently most people avoid these types of food, so they're the most likely to be left-over from . . . . last week), I made my way to the sushi. Now, I have an even more horrible experience with Sushi than I ever did with jalapeños (and I've yet to get a sudden, irrational craving for it), but next to the Sushi was a small tub of green paste which resembled guacamole sauce . . . and I absolutely LOVE guacamole, especially if its got jalapeños in it.

Knowing it was actually Wasabi, I piled a giant scoop of it onto my fried Won-Ton and headed back to my table with a practical joke of my mind. Back at the table, I commented how funny it was that a Chinese restaurant would have guacamole on its buffet, as I slid the corner of the fried Won-Ton containing the gigantic gob of Wasabi into my mouth. The looks from the table were noticeably those of alarm and concern as they grabbed for their cell phone to dial 9-1-1.

"That's . . . uh . . . not guacamole! Spit it out man." The effect was exactly as I had hoped. Not only did my sinuses immediately open and my eyes began to flood with tears that would make Niagara falls look like "Stinky Falls" (a local falls much smaller and less impressive as those in New York). I held my ground and acted like nothing had happened. My jalapeño training had prepared me for this.

To make a long story short, I now have to budget for 6-pound containers of jalapeños, I'm currently saving for a separate room to store these containers, and I can play funny jokes on friends at restaurants.

I can't explain why all this is so. Perhaps it's because I'm getting older (I turn 36 tomorrow), or because it's because I got kicked in the head by a mule a few months ago. All I know is that I'd LOVE to see that childhood "friend" of mine again, accept his bet, and DEMAND a dollar bill--that would go a long way towards my next 6-pound tub.

1 comment:

bob s said...

Happy B-day! Good luck with jalapeno diet, hope it doesn't burn you out.