Tyrades! by Danny Tyree
Hot peppers bring tears to my eyes, but so does a family anecdote from my young adulthood.
I was living with my parents and slept during the day because I worked graveyard shift. One day my mother and brother brought home some pork barbecue for lunch. They pounced on the delicacy, chortling because I was missing out. (We’re a quasi-functional family, okay?)
They should not have accepted the “hot” version of the sauce.
Bypassing “4 alarm,” my mother’s mouth went straight to DEFCON 1. Her tongue was so enflamed she didn’t have time to warn my brother before he bit into his own sandwich.
Mom soon had her head under the kitchen faucet, vainly trying to dilute the inferno. My brother couldn’t get a turn at the faucet, so he rushed to the garden hose at breakneck speed for relief.
Revenge is a dish best served while Tyree is awake to witness it, but I settled for a leftover confession.
My mother and brother tortured their taste buds unwittingly, but many people nowadays intentionally bombard their mouth with ever-larger doses of capsaicin, the chemical irritant and neurotoxin that gives chili peppers their kick.
(Surely you remember the old Quaker Oats motto: “Nothing is better for thee than me … although chemical irritants and neurotoxins come in a close second.”)
Restaurants and community festivals have long taunted guests into consuming more and hotter peppers, but now challenges on social media have kicked the competition into overdrive.
Well, overdrive with a hint of idling. A trendy tortilla chip has been pulled from the shelves since the parents of a Massachusetts teenager claimed that he died from the product. (This beat the manufacturer’s initial response of “You say tomato, we say Carolina Reaper Chile…”)
Consumers are exposed to heaps of glamorization of pepper challenges, but precious few negative consequences. (“The girl gagging, coughing, begging for water and curling into a fetal position? She’s …um…producing a science video called ‘Our Friend the Third Trimester’. Yeah, that’s the ticket.”)
My wife and son are decidedly on the wimpy, non-adventurous side of the pepper spectrum. For them, chili con carne is nice, but chili con Mentho-Lyptus would be even better.
You know how warning labels indicate that peanuts may or may not have been on the same equipment as the food you’re paying for? My wife and son check for labels indicating whether peppers have been used on the same CONTINENT as the food they’re paying for.
For me, no trip to Subway is complete without a liberal dollop of jalapenos. They invariably clean out my sinuses. Too well, perhaps. One time I was exposed to repressed smells from the 7th-grade locker room!
So, yes, I’m in the spicy food camp, but I’m not a fanatic about it. Even I recognize that the whole macho “double dog dare you” attitude is hazardous. I’ve heard my share of “Come on, this’ll put hair on your chest” challenges about various concoctions, but this is more like “Come on, this’ll put defibrillators on your chest.”
I’m sad that my mother now complains about the blandness of the nursing home food. Even after nearly 40 years, I could probably track down the secret formula for resurrecting her taste buds.
But only if the oxygen tanks are out of the room. Only if the oxygen tanks are out of the room.
Copyright 2023 Danny Tyree, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at [email protected] and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”