Marolt: Habaneros and hippy cabbage together on the condiment cart
I’ve got an opinion for you: Habanero peppers are hot! I did my research. My facts are straight. I didn’t misquote anybody. Habaneros are hotter than hell. That’s a fact, except the part about hell. I haven’t been there. I’ve only heard.
I have been to Texas, though. It happened at Taco Villa. It’s a Texas fast-food joint. It’s franchised. It’s everywhere down there — Texas, that is, not hell, as far as I know. It’s the kind of place grandparents take their grandkids for soft-serve. It’s a place where retired people are ordering dinner while high schoolers have afternoon snacks. You’re as likely to see as many French people as Mexicans. What I’m getting at is that it’s a typical fast-food restaurant to make the masses’ asses what they are — large and ubiquitous.
You can guess what kinds of salsas they offer for their Big Macs in a tortilla. Mild equals ketchup, medium equals ketchup with a little salt in it, hot equals ketchup with salt and pepper, super hot equals ketchup that is stored next to a bottle of Tabasco in the fridge, and the “jalapenos” are nothing more than really old bluish-looking sliced pickles. So you’ll have to excuse me for having my guard down when I spotted a small tray of fresh habanero peppers on the serve-yourself condiment cart.
My son smiled when we sat down and asked incredulously, “Are you going to eat that?” Without saying a word, I plopped the entire thing in my mouth and started chomping away. I was fine for the first three or four seconds. After that, I don’t remember much.
Thankfully, my son didn’t have the presence of mind to snap an iPhone pic of what ensued. His account is chilling (poor choice of words) enough. Apparently my jaw started quivering just after my eyes started watering before they bugged out all red. It turned out to be a harbinger for the snot foaming from both nostrils. My mouth felt like baking powder pasted on corroded car-battery terminals. The place where my tonsils used to be pined for the halcyon days of strep throat. There was vegan lava coursing through my esophagus that would have made the flows of Vesuvius seem like trout streams babbling through ice dams in late Canadian winter.
This is where things get a little hazy. I believe I remember a woman who had been working behind the counter coming over to our table and asking me if she could get me a free refill on my soda. I can’t verify this from what’s in the memory banks, though. My concentration was so broken, at that moment that would turn into an hour and a half of agony, you could have asked me my name and I might have said something like “Tony Orlando,” thinking it a decent educated guess.
The point is that this isn’t supposed to happen at a generic fast-food joint. The sign out front that you see so often that it puts you in a hypnotic state driving down Interstate 20 is the unspoken stamp of approval on safety in culinary experimentation. It’s like getting a cup of coffee at McDonald’s and realizing it is actually scalding hot only after accidentally spilling some on your genitals at the end of the drive-through lane. You might expect coffee like that at Moriarty’s diner, but The Golden Arches? Come on!
So I think it’s a really bad idea that we, in Colorado, now have hippie cabbage next to the habaneros on the condiment cart. We’ve given marijuana the storefront stamp of approval and look forward to advertising that touts its legitimacy to the masses. How long will it be until we see on local television a spot featuring bikini-clad models with white teeth and curvaceous builds draping arms around suave young gentlemen in argyle sweaters, attracted to them, obviously, by the cool brand of doobies between their lips?
We have erected golden arches over trays of THC-laced candies, and “31 Flavors” catering pot at the next party is not out of the realm. The police know about it, as does the Legislature, the mayor and even the candlestick maker. Voters, the trusted masses and upholders of order, gave Mary Jane, along with Bud, Jack and the gang, the nod to govern our moods. Pot is good. Pot is safe. Pot is over-the-counter medicine that’s good for your social life, too! It’s new and improved, better than ever, the proof needed to convince ourselves that we are a progressive society.
Just remember: Habaneros are not addictive, and your IQ is only temporarily impaired before you ingest one.
Roger Marolt has kicked the habanero habit. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.