In America, I grew up with easy access to Mexican and Indian food, and knowing the amount of spice used for both sort of prepared me for how much or how little I could handle. Here in Brazil, however, I have found the hot sauce to be a lot less hot. This means I usually don’t put it on my food, which makes me less prepared for those few times when I do get hit by a hot sauce bomb sneak attack. The effects are devastating, not only because of the actual strength of the sauce, but also because I underestimate its power and drown my food with twice the amount than medically recommended. This always creates the same after effects, which I seem to never learn from. How I reach this hot sauce hell usually follows a pretty predictable pattern, which I have broken down into stages.
The “Macho Superiority Facade” Stage
I see the cute little container that says hot sauce on the side, and the server notices. They smile and say, “that one there is really hot.” Being so accustomed to getting the light stuff, I only half listen and decide to prove my muster and supposed “I have lived among Mexicans and Indians” American superiority.
I stare the server down in my best Clint Eastwood stone face before stating, “I like it hot.”
This technique is especially gratifying if it’s a male server, as this generates hearty laughs and macho responses, for they know now they are dealing with a real man.
Women servers just say “ok” and walk off. They already deal with enough men doing dumb shit to look impressive to give a damn if someone is about to bite into a little slice of spicy hell. But the male servers want a show, so I put a little on the edges of the food and then say, “Fuck it,” and dump a whole lot in the middle.
The “Still Not Feeling It But Should Know Better By Now” Stage
This is the stage when I take a bite and recognize that I was right once again: The Brazilian version of “hot” is the American version of Tabasco Light. I can handle this shit. Add more!!!!
I swear that at this point I am expecting applause, but all I get are bewildered looks from the wait staff as they walk off. There is being daring and there is being stupid – not everyone is willing to be witness to someone being the latter.
The “I Am Fucked But Want To Save Face Due To My Macho Superiority Facade Opening Stage” Stage
This is the stage that requires the most of my high school theater thespian skills. It initiates after I take the second or third bite and I come to realize that I have made a huge mistake underestimating the Brazilian capacity to make my mouth suffer: I also realize that that is where I dumped majority of the sauce, so there is a lot more to come.
I take a swill of my drink, disregarding warnings that that may actually make the heat worse, but I keep a straight face, because by this time that initial server has returned to check on my “macho performance.”
The “Lying Through My Painfully Streched Lips” Stage
At this stage I am way past acting and resort to bold faced lying with a good dose of heavenly intervention. I do my best to stretch my lips into a grin and say to the server, “This is great!” With my loyal audience back, I may even put on a little more just to impress.
The “Acceptance Stage Which, Not Coincidentally, Is Also The Last Stage of Death” Stage
Midway through the meal I simply accept the fact that I am no longer eating whatever the food was, but rather, I am eating “hot.” And it’s a sinister hot that some guy spent a month making in his basement. It’s like the hot sauce version of Alabama moonshine – there is a real chance that the amount I am consuming could kill me, and I even feel some strong pangs in the heart region. When the waiter drops by again, I only manage a quick nod – I can’t stretch my burning lips far enough to offer even a small smile.
The “I Made It Out Alive, Fuck Everything That Came Before” Stage
This is the stage where I escape death and go on being stupid and feeling superior. It happens towards the end of the meal. My whole face is numb enough that I can finish it all with pride, and with enough wherewithal to tell the waiter that that was a damn good hot sauce.
As I stand, I take a few minutes to allow the blood and oxygen to spread itself back around my body, and to make sure I can still see straight. After 15 or 20 minutes I am fine. And that is the problem. I forget the pain and torture too fast.
The “Ubiquitous Next Day” Stage
This is the stage on the next day where I must reap what I have sown as my anus decides that it wants a “retaste” the food. I then become a bathroom hermit, switching between the toilet and cold showers to let the cool water run down through the crack of my rear exit pipe. It should be enough to teach me my lesson, but my mouth doesn’t taste what my butt feels, so like the night before, it’s all forgotten much too soon.
They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different result – well that would perfectly explain my Brazilian hot sauce experience. There is a profound moral lesson in here somewhere about not looking down on other cultures and being prepared for things to exceed your expectations in other countries, but how about just remembering that if someone in Brazil warns you that something is really hot or really burns as opposed to just hot, it’s not a bad idea to give them a little benefit of the doubt.
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