Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Salty oil-cured chilies

Most days I wake up between 4:45 and 5:30am for work, depending on whether I am going to the market or the kitchen.  Other days my partner gets up at one of those hours to go to the kitchen and I am left home to contemplate myself all morning until she comes home.  I do menial tasks, drink coffee, and ponder the grandeur of a man against the backdrop of infinity.

The early hours are mystical.  The light cuts through the clouds and the trees and garbage bins are illuminated with an eerie glow.  The autumn leaves shine golden, and its as if nature is aware of itself being contemplated so it puts on a show.

Enough bullshit.  8am rolls around and my apartment becomes lit with rock.

I feel a burning.  My knife hand begins to tingle, and the 4-quart basket of Portugal Fire peppers (50000 - 75000 scovilles) in my fridge call to me.  I don't know what it is, but whenever the morning is nice and I am comfortable in body and soul, I need to cover my kitchen in capsicum.
 I'd read a recipe in Zakary Pelaccio's fantastic goodtimes cook book Eat With Your Hands for salty oil-cured chilies.  I'd bought the book on a weird grocery store clearance rack.  It was beside some lame NYT bestseller bullshit, and some other books Oprah talked about.  The cover caught my attention and I opened it up to a whole smoked pig recipe with a mise en place that included: "2 cases of beer on ice - cans, not bottles; a couple joints; 2 bottles Pappy Van Winkle bourbon; plastic cups; an 8-ball; 1 carton smokes..." and I thought fuck yeah, I can spend 10 bucks for this.

Basically you thinly slice about a pound of chilies, just fucking pack them with an excessive amount of salt, let them degorge for about an hour, and then cover them with hot olive oil.

I think it was my Vietnamese friend, Dinh, that got me into hot foods.  When I came from Owen Sound I was a real wuss for heat.  Tobasco was a thrill I'd limit to one or two drops in a bowl of soup.  When I think about it, Dinh was probably also a sissy when it came to handling heat, but he was an instigator and would torment himself to torment you.  He might play it a little differently: he was willing to risk great physical discomfort in order to broaden my horizons.  Great wise sage. 

It started with urging me to attempt the sriracha in my pho.  Then add a little more.  Then eat this whole chili seeds and all, you fucking pansy.  And at the time, I didn't enjoy the experience.  I enjoyed the attention.  I got to experience the pleasure of doing what the guy next to me wouldn't do.  Perhaps an urge that's got me into trouble more often than not, but has consistently driven me forward.  Like all things, irony eventually turns to post-irony.  When you first played that Weezy record it was a joke, but now you kind of like it - next week you'll fight a dude at the bar about not including Lil' Wayne in his list of greatest rappers of all time.  And now, in my quiet moments, with nobody watching, I preserve hot peppers because I am afraid of the winter without thrills.

When I was a teenager, I went to bed at 6am almost every day.  I woke up between 3 and 5 pm.  Breakfast was dinner and then I finished my night with breakfast.  When I entered the work force I started by working night shifts, because they most naturally fit my schedule.  Realizing night work sucked ass, I switched to day work, and eventually morning work.  Part of me still doesn't think of the morning as a time.  Yet, this morning I woke up at 5:30 when I didn't have to, didn't go back to bed, and have had a very productive 5 and a half hours of doing.  

Name dropping for my nerd homies: Ilya Prigogine.
It seems the only foods I can eat these days that aren't spicy are sweet fruits like apples or grapes.  Everything, every thing, has to have some small amount of kick.  It doesn't sit well in my mouth otherwise.  I can enjoy some aspects of a dish, or even compliment a technical achievement in the meal, but without a spicy component I find myself not satisfied.  Well, perhaps an exaggeration, but the great majority of my meals are hot.  Very hot.  Sometimes millions of scoville units hot.

All of this sunrise preparation is with my face to the sunset.  Mark has ordered in extracted capsicum because he wants to destroy me.  I don't know what this means yet, but I feel that it may be the end.  The rock and roll draws to a close, and a calm descends upon me.  I return to contemplating how everything the morning sun touches is made golden.


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