Can a foodie also be a hothead?

Published 8:41 pm Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I often joke that it was not, in fact, a milk bottle that I was given as baby but a bottle of Texas Pete. In my house, spicy food was just a way of life. Just about everything my mother prepared had a little bit of a kick to it.

Vegetable soup wasn’t truly fit for consumption until it had a dousing of black and red pepper. Steak had no meaning as a main course if the A-1 sauce that topped it didn’t have an ample amount of hot sauce on top of it. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure even iced tea was incomplete without a few shots of Tabasco.

As a result, I’m one of those people who puts hot sauce on pretty much everything. I just feel it makes the food taste better. Even though this upsets those traditional foodies who enjoy their foods for their inherent flavor, I simply cannot resist adding that kick of spice to my meals. And in the eyes of some of those traditional foodies, a simple hothead isn’t necessarily a true foodie.

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Anyway, growing up in a house where spicy food was the norm set me up for some interesting experiences in the real world. For those who have spicy food on occasion or not at all, watching someone smother everything from eggs to fresh fruit with hot sauce is not only an oddity but something of a fascination.

And for those who befriend the likes of a hothead like myself, it becomes a challenge to find something too hot and spicy for them to eat.

I just happen to have such friends. And in their efforts to sink the hothead in me, I’ve had the opportunity to sample, and overindulge, in some of the finest spicy vittles around. I’ve gotten some of the spiciest food from the seven cities and from as far away as the Philippines and Jamaica. And I remain as yet unphased.

I never really considered my affinity for the hot and spicy a problem until one particular occasion. I remember it well.

I was out with my friends at a bar and I was feeling particularly in the mood for something just off-the-charts spicy. So, at this particular bar I made a special challenge to the chef to make me the spiciest chicken wings he could concoct. And, have mercy, he did.

First of all, if your eyes start watering before the plate hits your table, it’s spicy. If your head bursts into flames as the wings approach your lips, it’s very spicy. And if it makes your tiny female friend fall off her stool and almost pass out from the smell alone — and yet you are still able to enjoy the food to the last morsel, then you are truly a hothead.

Even if my quest for the perfect mouth-watering treats might cause a friend or two to pass out, so be it, because from my earliest days, I was raised to enjoy the spicier side of life and food. Bring on the peppers and hot sauces and exotic spices. I can take it.

And to all the foodies who think that a hothead isn’t a true foodie, I suggest that a person can be both, because the food remains as the most important part of enjoying the dining experience, spicy or not.