I have a heavy hand with spice.
When I was younger, my family frequented an Indian restaurant in the neighborhood. The Royal Peacock stands in my rear-view memory as the inception of my adventurous palate. I ate my way through the menu as a kid, and laced up with those great taste-memories is a deep laugh-memory of my father. I don’t remember what he ordered (if he cycled through a number of favorites or had one tried-and-true dish he ate every time) but whatever he ate, it must have been spicy because he sat at the linen covered table sweating profusely throughout the meal.
And I couldn’t stop laughing.
This wasn’t the typical body sweat that I understood as a young man who played outside (occasionally), this was something else, some foreign bodily function. His scalp was dripping, his face melting, he went through a stack of napkins not because he spilled turmeric-tinted sauce everywhere, but because he had to mop his brow after every bite.
I thought it was the funniest thing. I didn’t know anyone who sweated while eating.
Over the years I’ve cultivated a strong tolerance and a great love for dishes so spiked with chilies that they forced me to eat slowly and with care. I pride myself on my ability to not only handle spicy dishes, but to enjoy them, to differentiate between international spice levels and flavor profiles as I eat ethnic foods of many colors.
And then it happened to me. It was slow at first, a drop at the back of my neck, a collection of dew under my nose, I hardly noticed anything amiss. But then it grew, I was wiping my forehead with the sleeve of my shirt after a piping bowl of Thai green curry and saw how wet I’d become. Nevermind, I thought, it will pass.
It did not pass.
I did not grow out of it, I was actively growing into it. There was no way to stop this train, I could resign myself to a life of bland food, or accept the inevitable.
While touring with Flashdance in Tampa I found a Jamaican restaurant and ate there for lunch with two friends. The cafe made their own hot sauce, and Jamaican hot sauce is one of my favorites. I brought a few little cups of the sauce (dispensed at a stand with napkins and plastic cutlery) over to the table and dumped one onto my rice and peas. A quick stir-and-taste told me it was not nearly hot enough for my satisfaction, so I promptly dumped the remaining two small cups onto my food and dug in.
Within minutes I knew I had made a mistake. This sauce was hot, it was a level of spice that I both love and rarely find. And I was dripping. I kept my head down, salting the plate with my own sweat, slightly ashamed of my perspiration, but more focused on the task at hand: finishing lunch. At some point in conversation with my friends I opened my mouth to speak and couldn’t get the words out. Derek looked at me and laughed, “Whoa there, Dan, you ok?” I looked like I had stepped out of a pool and into the restaurant.
I tried to speak again, but now we were all laughing and I was trying to wipe my brow with the cheap napkins, leaving a trail of small white paper all over my face. Derek and David laughed and laughed, pointed at my plate, at the empty cups of hot sauce, and then at my face.
I am the sweaty dad at the table.
2 Apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 Cherry Pepper, sliced thinly
1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 cup Water
¼ cup Sugar or ⅓ cup Honey
Place the sliced apples in a quart-sized mason jar.
In a small saucepan, add the sliced cherry pepper, vinegar, water, and sweetener. Bring everything to a boil, then drop the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Pour the hot liquid into the mason jar, over the apples, and let it cool on your counter.
Screw the lid in place, and set it in your fridge. The pickles will be ready in 24 hours, and will keep for a few weeks in brine in your fridge.