It was one of those “low ball” nights, quiet, nothing going on, wife at yoga, boring cable news, had to fend for myself. On those kinds of nights you don’t break out the gourmet, no need for a recipe book, don’t pull out the herbs and spices, leave the fresh in the fresh drawer, and for sure don’t thaw out a steak.
It’s not depression, it’s a lack of ambition—laziness. Pull the junk out? No! Across the street laid a better idea at the best hamburger joint in four counties. Easy decision. I was not a walker this particular evening, so I drove over, parked out front, and went in. This time of evening the place was near deserted. Older people eat early and this is a town full of older people. At 7:30, just me, a family of four, and a couple sitting in the corner by a window occupied the place.
I placed my order for carry-out and sat down to wait the ten minutes or so. Having nothing to do, I watched the two cooks and the family. The cooks spent their time cooking, cleaning, and planning what they would do once we left. The family was not particularly interesting, very nondescript. The kids weren’t fussing and the parents were getting along okay, but not talking much.
However, the couple by the window did interest me. A quite attractive lady, a real looker sat pensively. She wasn’t a cowgirl, she had too much city class. I wondered where she came from.
Her fellow—a quite different. He was rather ordinary looking with no distinguishing features. He didn’t seem to have enough class to fill a juice glass. Ten minutes after you met him you wouldn’t be able to pick him out of a police lineup. I wondered what brought this duo together. Either he had money, she thought he had money, someone fixed them up or it was “E-Harmony” about to go bad.
After a few minutes of what seemed like idle conversation lacking any humor and animation, the cook brought their burgers. He ordered fries on the side and she ordered onion rings. The cook also brought her a side order of jalapeño peppers in a bowl. He traded a couple of fries for an onion ring and they actually fed each other. After taking a bite of her burger, she gave her attention to the jalapenos
She offered him some but he turned her down. She then took a bottle of Tabasco sauce and generously shook it on the peppers. I think my mouth must have dropped open. The peppers were hot, the Tabasco was hot and together I’m surprised they weren’t combustible. I’ve known many Tabasco users from my life in South Louisiana, but none who did what this lady did. As she ate the pepper, she kept adding more Tabasco. When she had eaten them all she hadn’t broken out in a sweat and looked none the worse for wear.
After leaving with my order, I decided I couldn’t care less about the relationship of these two misfits. I was too much in awe of the attractive lady’s eating prowess.
This encounter reminded me of my own hot sauce experience many years ago in the spring of 1965. A bunch of us, along with our dates, went down to Hymel’s for dinner. Hymel’s was a seafood joint about thirty miles from Baton Rouge. It was on River Road across the road from the Mississippi River levee with cotton and sugarcane farms behind it. There were several restaurants like Hymel’s across South Louisiana though, at the time, Hymel’s was probably the best. They served the freshest seafood anywhere. Up and down River Road crayfish were everywhere. They were just fattening themselves up before going over to Hymel’s to jump in the pot. Catfish, oysters, crabs, anything you wanted could be found just ten minutes to an hour away by pirouque or pickup.
All this was prepared by the finest Creole and Cajun cooks ever. The way of cooking had been passed down from generation to generation going back to the 1700s. Whether you wanted boiled or fried, it just didn’t get any better. Add some salt, cayenne, and Tabasco and you were set. Talk about hot! Tabasco was made about fifty miles from Hymel’s. I always believed that the Tabasco just walked up to Hymel’s on its own. No need for trucks, the path was well worn.
Most of us had been drinking beer since noon in anticipation of our night at Hymel’s. By this time in the evening, our bladders were getting pretty active, despite the fact that a healthy Louisiana boy could drink six or more beers before he had to take a leak. When I headed for the john, I was quite inebriated and made a wrong turn to the bathroom. Actually, you could say I was lost in the confines of Hymel’s. Finally, I found a door which I thought was the employees bathroom and entered.
The room seemed very hot and smelled of cayenne pepper. It was pitch black and I couldn’t find a switch, but too late to turn back. I felt around for the urinal, but I couldn’t find it. I thought there were some stainless steel vats in the center of the room, but I couldn’t tell for sure. I felt along a wall and came to a corner. The corner would have to do for my urinal. I unzipped my fly and commenced to find relief. After what seemed like a long time, I finished my business. I put my junk up and zipped my jeans.
By following the wall, I finally came to a door and got out. As I looked back, several stainless steel pots with the butane going full blast dominated the room.
I realized I had been in the room where they boiled crayfish!
I hurried back to my table, sat down and blamed my absence on a long line. I started fidgeting around and realized I had a very hot sensation between my legs. It got hotter and hotter—almost unbearable. People were giving me funny looks and asking questions, “Are you sick?” “You okay, J. Michael?” My eyes were burning so I wiped them with my hand and the pain got worse. I was in a cayenne pepper fire. I bolted from the table, got directions to the men’s room and took off.
Once in the men’s room, I entered a stall, took off my pants, and began washing myself with my beer. Once the beer was gone, I filled the mug with water and washed some more. Finally, I could walk. I still hurt as I made my way back to the group. I explained it as being sick. Soon, we left and none too soon for me.
If there is a moral to this story, it must be that “Some like it hot and some not so much.” POO YIE