Variety May Be The Spice of Life, but Spices Can Make Life a Variable.

August 25, 2011

Freshly Pressed, Humor

Recently I went for dinner with a friend to this Thai place. It’s one of those places where you specify how spicy you want the food on a scale of 1 to 25.  Now, I don’t pretend to be all super-spicy food guy (“Yeah, I like my salsa to be cruel!  It should punch me in the face!  It should get me fired!  It should use up all the minutes on my phone!”), but I’m generally not afraid of a little spice.  So, we’re ordering and the waitress asks how spicy I want it.  I’m feeling bold, so I say 19.  She says, “You can’t handle 19.  You can have 12.”

Warning: contents are not hot.

Okay. Now.  The waitress and I don’t know each other – I’ve never been here before.  I think she’s speaking more out of nationalistic pride than anything else; that and the relatively safe assumption that, being an American, I’m a total spice wimp.  (Really?  There are people who think fast food salsa is too hot? It’s basically ketchup with pulp).  I also realize completely at the time, that she’s probably right – I very likely over-estimated myself, and she knows the menu; but 12?  12??  I look like I can only handle 12?  It’s not like I asked for 25 – I understand that at restaurants like this the highest numbers are like an exclusive club.  It was only 19!  Plus her tone was so dismissive it just got my hackles up.

He’s allowed to order, I believe, a “22.”

So it’s her pride against mine and I get stupidly insistent that I want 19.  I can handle 19!  How does she know I didn’t spend several years living in Thailand? (I didn’t)  Or that I haven’t won chili pepper eating contests? (I haven’t)  Or that I’m not a Balrog – the fire-demon from Lord of the Rings?  (Okay, it’s probably relatively clear to her that I’m not a balrog, but I’m just saying…)

All the while in my mind thinking, ‘what the hell’s wrong with you?   Listen to the woman.  I don’t even think I want 19.’  I’m feeling insulted.  She thinks I’m belittling the intensity of her culture’s food.  Finally after much back and forth, we agree on 16.

But you know I didn’t get 16.

You know, now that I’ve implied that Thai food isn’t all that, that she went back to the kitchen and said, “Mr. Big Stuff out there thinks he can handle authentic Thai food!”  And that’s when they broke out the special spices.  Spices in a rack that can only be opened by turning two keys simultaneously.  Spices you can’t look directly at.  Spices grown in soil fertilized with the blood of executed psychopaths.

“Safety Protocol Delta engaged. Prepare to open spice rack in 3… 2… 1…”

When she brings me the food, it’s so hot the bowl is glowing.  The heat from it is emitting a low hum.

She smiles.

I smile.

“Looks great!” I say in a manner that probably fooled no one.

It was agony.  And I couldn’t just suffer through it; I had to look like I was enjoying it.  Red-eyed, sweaty, hunched over… Mmmmm.  Nummy.  I’m guzzling my water and my friend’s water (What?  He got, like, an 8 spiciness.  He can drink water later). I’m trying to sneak my water glass to the bathroom to use the sink in there, and when that doesn’t work?  Guzzling straight from the tap.  The public-restroom tap.  I’m even thinking at the time “I’m probably getting all kind of hepatitis right now, but you know what?  That’s later.  I’ve got to worry about right now.”  Occasionally the waitress would come by with a little smile on her face.  “More water?” she’d ask knowingly.  And here’d come the casual act.  “Oh, hm.  Water?  Uh, gosh, I guess.  Sure.  Since you’re here.  A little more water would be fine.  Always good to be hydrated.  8 glasses a day and all that.”

I did reach a moment where I wondered if it was possible to still retain my cool while throwing up and/or weeping, but I made it through the meal.  The waitress still gave me a knowing sneer, but by the end I like to think there was a tiny hint of respect as well.  But my eyes were a little blurry by then, so I could be wrong.  And maybe the next time someone asks for spicy food, she won’t be so quick to dismiss them.  Maybe she won’t be so quick to presume, to correct, to dictate. Maybe she’ll take a moment and think, “Oh, this is gonna be great.”

Photo credits:

  1. “Salsa” by Roboppy, Flickr
  2. “Balrog” image property of New Line Cinemas
  3. “German American Bank Vault Lock” by Minnesota Historical Society, Flickr
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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Blog in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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196 Comments on “Variety May Be The Spice of Life, but Spices Can Make Life a Variable.”

  1. gojulesgo Says:

    haha I don’t blame you for being insulted! And I must say I’m impressed you got through the whole meal. The same thing always happens to me. Especially at Indian restaurants. They never make it ACTUALLY spicy, no matter what I say!

    Reply

    • Byron MacLymont Says:

      I’m sure they’ve had too many people say they want it spicy, then complain and send it back. “OMG, I didn’t mean ‘hot’ spicy!”

      Reply

    • SK Says:

      When I was new to the US, i realized that the food here lacks the basic level of hotness that we get back at home in India :)
      So i used to grab pepper packets greedily and pour them on my fries to get a “little” spice!
      I can totally imagine what you must have gone through !!

      You MUST visit India, especially Andhra Pradesh state.

      Being a great spicy food lover, even that cuisine makes me sweat and drink loads of water! :D

      Reply

      • Byron MacLymont Says:

        Oh, Lord do I love Indian food. We have a pretty good Indian place here, but I don’t know them well enough yet to say, “Okay, start hitting me with the authentic stuff.” Visiting India is definitely on the Big List, though. A friend just returned.

        Reply

      • Sarada Purushotham Says:

        I completely agree with SK, as I am also from Andhra Pradesh – especially Guntur (a place in Andhra Pradesh state) – – the pickles, you should try it …

        Reply

    • ghoat4523254 Says:

      hahahah

      Reply

    • newdraketimes Says:

      haha i agree with u

      Reply

  2. brainrants Says:

    Awesome. I love spicy food and generally thrive on experiences like yours. Not that its a healthy thing…

    Reply

    • Byron MacLymont Says:

      It’s a fine line between spicy and masochistic.

      Reply

      • theamberlight Says:

        Byron, isn’t that the truth! I once almost choked to death on a shrimp cocktail from St. Elmo’s here in Indianapolis. It is really, pardon the pun, ‘to-die-for’. The sauce is one of a kind with some of the hottest, cleanest horseradish I have ever eaten. It will heat you up, but it doesn’t scald like some things can. The flavor is fantastic too! The only problem is if you breathe in at the wrong time….it will take your breath away literally, and not give it back! I happened to be by myself and sank to the ground hoping that at some point before I passed out I would breath again, and if not some nice person would call for help. ( I was at a festival in downtown Indy.) I am much more cautious when I hit the hot stuff now!!! Great choice for Freshly Pressed, congrats!

        Reply

  3. Mikalee Byerman Says:

    Oh. My. GOD that was hysterical.

    It’s like that oft-parodied, famous Jack Nicholson line in A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the HEAT!”

    I wonder what it was that tipped her off about your “level”???

    Reply

  4. Deborah the Closet Monster Says:

    I haven’t even read this, but your name caught my eye when I loaded WordPress and I had to “Like” this on general principle of liking the fact that lots of people will be reading this! Woo-hoo! :D :D :D

    Now I’ll actually read this. I’m sure I’ll like it even more after having read it. :D

    Reply

    • gojulesgo Says:

      Yeah! Hot diggity – look at you, freshly Freshly Pressed!

      Reply

    • Deborah the Closet Monster Says:

      My prediction proved accurate. Psychic . . . or just a case of expecting the best because it’s the standard here? I’m thinking it’s clearly the former. Time to whip up some new business cards!

      A lot of my mom’s favorite recipes involved tons of spices, either from her time in Mexico or just acquired later or because of her own personal love for them. I grew up loving spices, too, and found it agony to be in Japan, where the spiciest stuff I could find was “ketchup with pulp”–and where people lauded me for eating it nevertheless! When I found a place that claimed it had spicy food and actually did, I rejoiced. With damp eyes.

      Li’l D’s favorite food when he started eating? Spicy panang curry. I’m glad to see the tradition carrying on. :D

      Reply

    • Byron MacLymont Says:

      Thanks for “liking” on faith/principle!

      Wow. Spicy Panang curry? Wow.

      Reply

    • singleworkingmomswm Says:

      Hi, Deb, no joke that I just clicked on this one meeself! Great minds, girl…and it was absolutely a riot!

      Reply

  5. The Simple Life of a Country Man's Wife Says:

    lol! Sounds like you did a public service for the next guy to walk in and order a 19. I cannot even handle our hot garden peppers – there is no way I could have handled what you ate. I’ve been told to drink milk instead of water after eating something spicy. Wonder if that’s true or not.

    Reply

    • KSA Says:

      That just makes you want to throw up. Trust me…I’m the expert on all things edible that should definitely NOT be consumed together! Try an ice cube or some sugar & all will be well. Stay away from anything fizzy since that just adds fuel to the fire (pun totally intended)!!!

      Reply

    • Dirty Costumes Says:

      completely true!! it’s also true for burns. I had a slightly different experience with hot peppers. I was mixing them (by hand!) into a bowl of shredded cabbage i was making into sauerkraut and learned my lesson the hard way. My hands were on fire for about 5 hours after that. Nothing was helping until I filled a bowl with ice and milk and sank my hands into that for at least 2 hours before the milk absorbed and the burning ceased. Milk is the best cure for anything burning!! Hands down!

      FUN FACT: the irritant ingredient in chili peppers that makes us feeling the burning sensation is called capsaicin and is NOT water-soluble therefore water does not help rid the capsaicin. Milk and other dairy products have a phosphoprotein in them called casein that can get to the source and dissolve the irritation.

      Reply

      • Byron MacLymont Says:

        I even knew that about the water but… try telling that to yourself in the moment. Plus she might have gotten suspicious if I’d asked for 4 loaves of bread and a gallon of milk. I have my dignity, after all (at least what didn’t sweat out).

        Reply

        • Crusader Rabbit Says:

          As a 30-year Thai food fan who’s also done time in the kitchen at a Thai restaurant, I’m here to tell you, water doesn’t help.

          In order to cut the heat you need lipids. Your best friend in a Thai Restaurant is the coconut “ice cream”. Failing that order a glass of milk.

          When friends go with me to eat Thai I have the waiter bring the coconut ice cream with the meal. I wouldn’t be a friend if I didn’t. It saves lives.

          Reply

      • joaquinbarroso Says:

        Any hydrophobic substance would do: Butter, milk, soya milk, yogurt, plain olive oil, etc. Go for 20 next time!

        Reply

  6. CrystalSpins Says:

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! I wish I had been there. I think I would have asked for a five — maybe 7 if I were feeling sassy. But I live in the Midwest. We can’t even get Thai food here.

    Reply

  7. PCC Advantage Says:

    I love spicy food! It’s so annoying when people think you can’t handle spicy foods (even if you can’t). I get that all the time. Apparently, I look like a wimp. I could honestly handle a spice that was a good 19 or 20 on the scale…unless it has jalapenos in it because then I would die. I’m allergic…I found out the hard way.

    I have to be honest, though, that the same thing has happened to me. I was all arrogant about my spice threshold, and shoving it in people’s faces and then I ended the meal in tears because of the spice. Serves me right. ;)

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    Reply

  8. aka gringita Says:

    My local Thai place has 4 heats from “no spice” up to “hot.” I once accidentally got medium (I had ordered “mild” which was still OhMyGodILostMyLips hot but they accidentally swapped my plate with my dinner companion, who ordered medium and could handle it).

    There is nothing quite so interesting an experience as feeling that ones food is actually injuring one.

    Meanwhile another friend of mine, who is from a culture that CAN handle hot, tells me that in order to get the TRULY hot dish, and actually have it be hot, you have to insult them. You know, get really offensive about it: “It won’t really be hot. It’s just hype. Thai people don’t know what hot IS. Look, see, I’ll order hot, and it won’t be hot at ALL!” THEN they break out the DEFCON 1 Spice rack, and actively try to kill him.

    I wouldn’t even eat there with him. I figured they might try to kill me too. Guilt by association, and all that.

    Reply

    • Byron MacLymont Says:

      I think that was extremely wise of you. Mocking people when they hold all the cards? That’s like thinking, “I think I can beat the radio host in this argument. Sure he’s got the audience, a staff finding data, and a button to mute me, but I’m gonna take him DOWN.”

      Reply

  9. mydisenchantedlife Says:

    I believe our Thai place ups the speices just to laugh at us (wimpy Americans). In that place you have mild, medium, hot, and chef spicy. When I order medium it’s wimpy EXCEPT when I go with a big table of guys. Then it’s hotter than “hot” on normal days.I order hot on normal occasoins. But give a questionable medium when I’m with them!

    Reply

  10. natasiarose Says:

    LOL I would love a hot sauce that would punch me in the face! If that waitress was nice, she would have told you water makes it worse and given you some milk. I need to know where this restaurant is.

    Reply

  11. Bill Chance Says:

    Really great entry. Personally, I don’t think food is even close to spicy enough unless the top of your head sweats – I’d love to see where I stood on one to twenty five – probably about twelve.

    I remember going to an asian restaurant that didn’t even have English on the menu. I pointed to an entree and the waitress said, “Oh, no, you don’t wanna order that.” I though a minute and moved my finger down one. She looked like she knew what she was talking about.

    Reply

  12. Confessions of a Super Virgin Says:

    Hahaha awesome story! I like spicy food, but I’m always scared something like this will happen, so I usually play it safe and get the least-spicy. You’ve just confirmed my fears are legitimate :) Congrats on being freshly pressed, it’s well-deserved!

    Reply

  13. dhblogger Says:

    Nice article man. I get just as indignant in those situations, I probably would have stubbornly gone for 25 and left the place with no tongue left. But my pride intact of course.

    Reply

  14. becomingcliche Says:

    I laughed out loud. Thanks for that, and congrats on making Freshly Pressed!

    Reply

  15. She's a Maineiac Says:

    I can only handle “ketchup with pulp”…even that makes my eyes water. Well, at least you were bold enough to try something that has the potential to shoot flames out your ears. I bet it cleared up your sinuses though, huh.

    Congrats on being FP!!

    Reply

  16. stevebetz Says:

    Hah! You KNOW she totally had the cooks make up your order well beyond 16.

    I don’t think belittling and then traumatizing your customers are in “Restaurant Best Practices”, as it might lead to people not really wanting to come back. But who knows, maybe they’re looking for the masochist set there.

    Will you go back?

    Reply

    • Byron MacLymont Says:

      I’m sure I’ll go back. I’ll just casually hang out outside and make sure the waitress isn’t there. Then, when they ask what spiciness I want I’ll say, “Oh, gee, I’m thinking about a 12.”

      Reply

  17. gealachmor Says:

    Excellent read, and having been there and done that, I laughed out loud at how well your describe the scenario.

    One tip, don’t drink during the “torture”, all it does is refresh the taste buds so they get assaulted anew after each drink. Try a teaspoon of sugar instead. It works….. as the waiter at the Indian restaurant told me it would.

    Reply

    • Byron MacLymont Says:

      I’ve never heard that about the sugar, that’s interesting! I’m absolutely going to remember that, and if people ask what I’m doing with a bag of sugar, I’ll just say it’s cocaine (you know, so it doesn’t draw attention).

      Reply

  18. mrbricksworld Says:

    Maybe you bear a striking resemblance to that dude from the Pace Picante TV commercial, you know the one everyone hates because he’s from New York City.

    Congrats on being Freshly Sizzled, oops I mean Freshly Pressed.

    Mr Bricks

    Reply

  19. themiddlestsister Says:

    My husband and I always ask for “American hot” :D

    Reply

  20. My Camera, My Friend Says:

    Reminds me of the time two of my friends (almost professional spice lovers who enjoyed the pain) dared a bunch of guys to try the Pain 100% sauce from Firehouse subs. Good times. I didn’t try it, I just took photos.

    Reply

  21. It's dani time Says:

    Christ, this reminds me of the time my Anthropology professor (who spent the majority of his life in Thailand) thought it would be an excellent gesture to cook the class an authentic Thai meal. He had sticky rice and three dishes with different levels of spiciness, so I admitted I wasn’t quite sure how I’d handle them and he gave me the first one, the mild one. I was incredibly fine with that, until I tried it and knew I could handle much hotter, so I went for the hottest one, and after the first bite I immediately regretted it. My mouth was on fire, I couldn’t breathe, and I couldn’t even feel my tongue for that matter. Naturally, I drank all the water surrounding me. So, I can relate.

    Reply

  22. Rebecca Carney - One Woman's Perspective Says:

    Have to say that I like food to be spicy enough to have a zip, but not spicy enough so that it covers the taste of the actual food. Great post!!

    Reply

  23. Rayme Wells @ A Clean Surface Says:

    When my Midwestern in-laws came to visit, we went to a place that has some multicultural dishes. I don’t recall what my mother-in-law ordered but it came with wasabi. She thought it was guacamole and ate a large amount.

    Later, she said that it hurt so much she thought she would actually die.

    Reply

  24. runningmanda Says:

    HAHAHA!!! Too funny. Reminds me of going out to eat with my husband. I am new to the whole “I like it spicy” scene. I didn’t think I liked spicy foods until he introduced me (forced me!) to try some spicy dish he ordered and I ended up liking it. Now I feel like I’m constantly having to prove myself to being able to handle the hotty hotty dishes! :) I could totally relate to your blog, from the trying to prove yourself to then forcing it down, just to prove you could handle it. Cute post.

    Reply

  25. My Life After Kids Says:

    What a great post! Who can’t relate to this on some level. My brother-in-law is Mexican and he BBQ’d some hot peppers of some kind to offer his guests. After sampling, my husband had to go home – immediately!
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    Reply

  26. N. Says:

    This post soooo made me want spicy food, despite the fact that is 40 degrees outside.

    Reply

  27. Amanda (Adele) Delsohn Says:

    Ha! I love this! I love spicy food and my favorite local Thai food place rates their dishes as mild, medium, hot, and thai hot. Every time I go I order ‘hot,’ yet each time the heat level is COMPLETELY different. Sometimes there is barely any spice at all and sometimes I’m crying, blowing my nose, and guzzling water like I’ve never had the stuff. It is actually one of my favorite things about this place (although I rarely remember that when my tongue is swollen and my eyes are puffy after an extra spicy ‘hot’ dish). It keeps me guessing! I never know what I’m going to get when I order my meal ‘hot.’ Great post! Congrats on being freshly pressed!

    Reply

  28. Cimmorene Says:

    Man, that waitress was rude! I thought it was the business of food service to try to please the customer. Am I wrong? A more polite way to handle this, in my opinion, might have been to say, “Nineteen is pretty spicy, sir. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather try something milder?” Or even, “Let me provide you with a large glass of milk with that, just in case.” But that ballsy, “You can’t handle 19. You can have 12.” That would get me fired. Then again, if the waitress had said that to me, rather than let myself get offended, I probably would have asked, “Why? How spicy is a nineteen?”

    Reply

  29. Christy aka MamarazziPages Says:

    Oh my goodness that was hysterical. I’m a self admitted wimp, probably the wimpiest of wimps when it comes to spice. I dont understand why people would want to eat food that makes you suffer!
    Well you know what they say, what doesnt kill you makes you stronger so I’m guessing since you didnt burn a hole in your stomach, its probably a little tougher now! Thanks for the laugh!

    Reply

  30. pegoleg Says:

    I can only handle ketchup. Pulp gives me hives. If I got the 8, like your friend, I’d be breaking open the fire hydrant outside the restaurant and DAMN the smirking Thai waitress.

    Reply

  31. Laura4NYC Says:

    Haha, great example of never messing with a guy’s pride…!

    Reply

  32. justalittlebrit Says:

    Hilarious, loved this writing. I went to Thai yesterday and they didn’t even give me an option to have rated spice if that makes you feel any better. haha they must really know I can’t handle it but how rude! Thanks for sharing : )

    Reply

  33. Travelling Writer Says:

    I like this article because I also love spicy food… Those extra hot spicy food. I went to a Mongolian restaurant last week where we got the chance to choose the ingredient/spice that we want to be in our meal… For the sauce, I chose teriyaki, szechwan, and hot chili! Phew!! It knocked me off my feet and I am looking forward for another one!!! I am so into spicy food… Thanks for the article. :D

    Reply

  34. Eva McCane Says:

    this is f*ckin hilarious! i have to say, i sometimes think of myself as a bad*ss in the spice world. having said that, i’ve also been forced to smile my way through a meal while my lips spit fire and my intestines smoldered all because of pride. my boyfriend is italian, but i swear he’s got some sort of thai gene in him because he can house a 25 meal without much problem at all. and he likes it. thanks for sharing!
    http://www.icouldntmakethisshitup.wordpress.com

    Reply

  35. Charlie McDonald Says:

    It sounds worse than when I was at a local watering hole with my friend. A friend who insisted to the waitress that we get very spicy wings. And with a evil smile she went and talked to the cook…….

    Reply

  36. dihan91 Says:

    Nice. Looks like I’m into ur blogs from now.

    Reply

  37. Alan King Says:

    Hilarious! So much so I had to read it aloud to my fiancee, and we were both laughing so hard we had to wipe our eyes. Great post!

    Reply

  38. Margie Says:

    I feel pain in my mouth just from reading your story! But you know the old saying – No Pain, No Gain, and in this case your painful experience has won you the Freshly Pressed Lotto!

    Reply

  39. lizziestack Says:

    Hahahaha, I would have loved to have seen this, you’re a lot better than me, I go for like 5!

    Reply

  40. jessicamjonas Says:

    That was fantastic!! Always got to keep that healthy fear of Thai food and Thai wait staff, right? But kudos to you for gritting your teeth and making it through! You are a trouper.

    Reply

  41. stillwaters119 Says:

    haha! this was too good to pass up. I absolutely love spicy food, but I’m always wary of Thai food. Their spice is different from nearly anywhere else in the world. But that’s what makes it so good! Next time, order a 16 to see if it’s just as spicy XP

    Reply

  42. Sta Says:

    I’m reading this at work and chuckling through the entire post. It’s hysterically funny. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. You’re a very entertaining writer, and you deserve it!

    Reply

  43. sadaf@large Says:

    The same thing happened to me in thailand… had to literally put ice to my lips ;-)

    Reply

  44. girlonthecontrary Says:

    Freshly Pressed- it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy…..except for me, but, you know, a girl.

    Hilarious as always, but also, there was a moral here and I’m pretty sure it was “Hey. Eating spicy food that is way too spicy makes you a badass.” I’m in. I’ll be eating Thai tonight.

    Reply

    • Byron MacLymont Says:

      Well, I’m all about the moral of the story. Especially when the moral includes the word “badass.” “And that, Timmy, is why Jack is a badass, and the giant was 10 pounds of chump in a 5-pound bag.”

      Reply

  45. meredith Says:

    Haha, that would be me. Congrats on getting through it alive. :)

    Reply

  46. Dark Fent Says:

    Meh, you can learn form us Malaysians….if the food don’t kill you first. (^~`)b

    Reply

  47. theseventhlayer Says:

    I’m still laughing! I would probably do the same thing. I’m cajun so i’d think we eat spicy food I got this and then it’d be like oh nope I don’t got this. HELP!

    Reply

  48. Christina Aiode Says:

    GREAT post! I am especially fond of spicy foods myself. I have had very similar experiences in the past when it comes to having to argue with the waiter or waitress, but I usually end up disappointing greatly with my lack of horror at the intense heat of my meal. One time in particular I was sitting next to the kitchen and what seemed to be the entire kitchen staff watched in anticipation as I took my first bite. I chewed, swallowed, smiled and turned casually back to the conversation I was having with my family. My tastebuds were unimpressed. :)

    Love your writing style, I look forward to reading more entries!
    -Christina

    Reply

  49. Patricia DeWit Says:

    Ha! That’s hilarious! I have lived in Bangkok for 20 years and have learned a few tips in eating spicy food that might help you actually go up to level 19:
    1. Try not to let the food touch your lips as you eat. I know that sounds hard, but if you watch Thai people eat (and they always eat rice with a spoon), they open their mouths and use their teeth to slide the food off, not their lips.
    2. More rice, not water, will cool things down. However, an ice-cube from your water glass will help numb your mouth and lips for a while.
    3. Tiny bites. It’s very un-thai to take large bites on your spoon.
    4. They usually don’t eat just one dish… they mix it up, so you’re not eating a whole plate full of only spicy food… they have a little bit of this soup, a little bit of those veggies, but not everything is spicy.
    And just remember… spicy in, spicy out.

    Reply

  50. Mama Bread Baker Says:

    This was hilarious! My husband had a similar encounter when he ordered the “nuclear” hot wings at a local restaraunt. The waitress tried to dissuade him but, being a man of his word and all, he stuck to his guns. I could visualize what you went through because I saw him sweat, tear up, hop around, and emit tiny puffs of smoke from his ears while he ate them. He too finished every one, but admitted to me later he would never order them again. Thanks so much for the laugh!

    Reply

  51. Janis Says:

    Ooh, I LURVE hot food. I’d ask for a 20 and then bitch that they ratcheted it down for me. I remember gaining some serious cred from a table full of rugby dudes in Wales (also the baritone section of a men’s voice choir, of course, this was Wales) when we went to an Indian restaurant, and I ordered the vindaloo. I love vindaloo.

    I know just enough Welsh to know that my dinner choice was under some scrutiny, and one of the guy’s wives, a friend of mine, later informed me that her husband had remarked to the other guys at the table: “She ordered the vindaloo! And she ate it in two minutes!”

    I love me some hot food …

    Reply

  52. jlee5879 Says:

    Awesome! Love it, was LMAO! That is why I stick to burgers and fries. :)

    Reply

  53. critters and crayons Says:

    Freaking hilarious- I’m half-Korean and live for spicy food- but Thai food is inhumane. I think I would have gotten a 10 and called it good. hahaha! Funny, funny- Congrats on FP-

    Reply

  54. ravolution Says:

    Being brought up on my mum’s indian cooking, I used to think that my tolerance for the fiery stuff was off the scale. Until I encountered the brain-cell-massacaringly hot thai food at the local restaurant. Life will never taste the same *sob*. You have made me laugh sir, congratulations!

    Reply

  55. Kate Says:

    Very funny post! I don’t handle spicy food well, so I feel your pain.

    Reply

  56. Pinky Says:

    Oh man! I can just imagine my brother at that restaurant; it wouldn’t be pretty.

    Reply

  57. ReddMuse Says:

    Oh my I laughed so hard I was in tears. So much so I had to re-read it to my daughter and husband between gasps and eye-wiping. I feel for you though, as I moved from FL to NM where I had to learn to up what I considered “spicy”.

    Reply

  58. mibsxx Says:

    Lol, once you start, you can’t stop!
    Have had similar events happen to me usually involving Phaal curries and always after a night on the tiles!
    Thank you for sharing this and making me smile xx

    Reply

  59. Alaina Mabaso Says:

    I’m jealous of everyone who can eat spicy things. My whole family downs peppers with glee, and all my life, I could never touch them. Even the smell of table pepper makes me nauseated, and the tiniest dash of cayenne in the soup makes my whole mouth burn. Other people’s “mildly spicy” is nuclear to me. I make my own pad thai and tom ka gai at home, sans peppers (and cilantro – yuck!).

    But congratulations on proving that waitress wrong.

    Reply

  60. teenagedreamz Says:

    I know exactly how you feel! The same thing happened to me when I asked for extra hot sauce and the waiter just looked down and me and laughed saying that its too much for me to handle. I was like, really? Just give me my food.

    Reply

  61. JL Says:

    Hahaha, I hate it when people say it like that: “You can’t handle it, you can have this instead.” I’m always thinking… aren’t I the customer here? I’m supposed to be paying for what I ask for, you ___. But then sometimes they are the professionals! Haha…

    Reply

  62. nu-cross Says:

    ohh i know how that is. I order Lvl. 21 (why? just because…) however they don’t question me. (yay for being asian)
    It’s great for everyone (except me…) the waiters/waitresses get a good laugh at me basically dieing, and so does the rest of my family who were smart enough to order below 10.

    Reply

  63. leadinglight Says:

    I can’t stand a dish if it’s not spicy but I don’t like Thai food too much as I dislike the sweet and spicy combinations most of their dishes do. But 19 does sound pretty high on a spice scale! I have an accompaniment to rice I like which is made with a mixture of chilli flakes, dessicated coconut and lime which I mix in a food processor. It’s my favourite side dish.

    Reply

  64. thiet ke noi that dep Says:

    Oh, i think i just can take…5, i don’t want cry by these spice, ha ha ^^

    Reply

  65. S. Trevor Swenson Says:

    Great piece. I am a huge Thai fan myself, but am not Captain Spicy either. That is actually a great system for ordering. I have only experienced a number system at an Italian place which was excellent.

    Reply

  66. Changes In Longitude Says:

    Oh how I can relate. I’ve learned over the years that if a restaurant numbers the heat settings that the food is really really hot. Funny post!

    Reply

  67. ava812 Says:

    bwahahahahahahhaa! hilarious! thanks for sharing! :) I guess you now know ;)

    Reply

  68. Olivia K Says:

    After a brutal workout the other morning I stopped by a coffee shop and ordered a pastry. The barista looked at my sweat drenched spandex and said, “you probably shouldn’t get that, it will just put back the calories you burned.” I gave her the evil eye, and ordered an americano.

    I must admit that I’m a little envious of your determination.
    I think tomorrow I will get a scone after my morning run.

    Great post. Thanks for the laugh!

    Reply

    • Byron MacLymont Says:

      Wow, the waitress may have been a little prideful (well, and correct, but that barista was just being a jerk! Next time say, “Oh, don’t worry. I’m planning on hucking most of the pastry at your head.”

      Reply

  69. Jessica Says:

    Since becoming pregnant, I have a new found respect and love for spicy foods. However. I’m pretty sure a 5 would have suited me just fine.

    How’d all that come out the other end, by the way?….

    Reply

  70. Harold Says:

    I went to a Mexican restaurant and they brought out the usual 2 dishes of salsa, mild and medium with tortilla chips. I asked for something hotter and one of them said “what? don’t you want to taste the food?!” He acted like I was insulting the food. I got the hot salsa and enjoyed the meal.
    I like it hot and spicy. But haven’t been to a Thai place that rates like that. I would probably start at 14-16 or so and see how it went then work my way up the scale.
    I have read it is best to ask the wait staff what they recommend. They know best and if you don’t like it, then it is their fault, but they should want you to enjoy your experience, especially a first time.

    Reply

  71. Rekha Says:

    very nice at all ….

    Reply

  72. singleworkingmomswm Says:

    Hilarious post, and I have only read one other Freshly Pressed entry before. This one rocked! I needed a good, great laugh tonight. Thanks for trying 16 (uh, I mean…19-25), LOL! :-)

    Reply

  73. Jason Says:

    Are you sure she didn’t just I’ve you twelve and you couldn’t take it? I mean, maybe she actually did you a favor. Some people just look like twelve guys.

    Reply

  74. nmaha Says:

    That was hilarious, I am at work and had to pretend I had a coughing fit.

    I love restaurants that give you a spice scale. In most places the techie (my husband) and I say extra spicy and are disappointed.

    Come on over to India and try our hot stuff, it’s to die for (literally).

    Congrats on getting your blog freshly pressed.

    Reply

  75. kvennarad Says:

    Made me smile, but – Hey! – the waitress did insult you. The last time one of the staff of a restaurant insulted me here’s what I did. I didn’t engage him (it was a him) in any further conversation. I didn’t complain to the management. I didn’t shout. I stood up, folded my napkin, bowed to my date, and said “Thank you for your kind invitation – do you mind if we leave?” It was a rhetorical question and my date was sharp-witted enough to know that I wasn’t kidding and wouldn’t be cajoled into sitting down again.

    If I had been in your position, however, I think I would have smiled sweetly and explained to the waitress that I am a Scot and we are world-famous for having no palate whatsoever.

    Kind regards,

    Marie Marshall
    writer/poet/editor/compulsive blogger

    Reply

  76. jessmayel Says:

    a similar situation happened to my boyfriend, he refused to be told he couldn’t handle the spicy, so his bowl came out bubbling hot, and he cried the whole way through. with two glasses of water. oh boys, will you ever learn! :)

    Reply

  77. Vadafied Says:

    Awesome “soil fertilized by the blood of psychopaths” lolz…

    Reply

  78. pradz19 Says:

    I hot and spicy food too. I remember my Thai friend Manop. He is the one who introduced me super mega dooper hot and spicy food.

    Reply

  79. mikkoloves Says:

    hahah, i heard of it before.
    you were so brave to try.

    Reply

  80. juliacastorp Says:

    i don.t know how would i react if my food wasn.t ok..guess we have to listen sometimes the people serving us, they know better

    Reply

  81. tothebeatofheart Says:

    Hysterical indeed.. but what’s life without Spice?? :)

    Reply

  82. martinfarr Says:

    did you get the chilli euphoria afterwards? As someone who is getting into hotter and hotter foods, I find that I get an almost catatonic feeling right after the chilli sweats have passed! It’s addictive too! good luck with the spice!

    Reply

  83. Callum Winterford Says:

    This is a really good (and funny) blog post! I only just started my own blog a week ago and have drawn some inspiration from some of the things you have written.

    Congratulations on getting your blog on freshly pressed as well!

    Reply

  84. Chef Ivan Says:

    A Jamaican told me that the best way to neutralize the explosion in your mouth is to drink fresh milk. Is that a myth? Or is it plausible? After reading your hilarious post, I may have to once and for all test that out.

    Reply

  85. Ceramic Tiles Manufacturers India Says:

    It’s quite possible happening. Thanks for sharing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply

  86. Aisiri Says:

    First of all, I am an Indian, which means our food is hot.
    Secondly, I am weird, meaning, I am a spice addict. The hottest of Indian food (Believe me, Thai scale of 25 doesn’t even describe the hotness of the “Kolhapuri”, a curry made in the state of Karnataka.), THE most hottest doesn’t make me sweat. In fact, I cut up a few green chilies or sprinkle more pepper powder on top. My friends give me the ‘wtf?’ look EVERY SINGLE TIME.

    I didn’t know that Americans liked their food less spicy, so when my cousin, who is part Indian, part American, came to live with me for a few weeks, I just gave her the ‘mildest’ curry I prepared, according to my scale.
    Needless to say, she moved out after two days.

    Brilliantly written post. :D

    Reply

  87. Yummy Aganda Says:

    Haha, that was brave of you! This is a funny article. I believe I’d have done the same as what you did. I also think I could handle the spiciest of them all!

    Reply

  88. peewee_RotA Says:

    Advice from thepunking:

    Your title isn’t clever or a real pun. When you are headlining and there’s no thyme to pepper a good pun, then don’t in salt your audience. And it’s o.k. tobasco help form someone else. When you do have a good idea say “Paprika! I’ve got it!” and then use it. If not, just use a grain old attention-getter to garnish your article.

    Reply

  89. ineffablemuse Says:

    HA! I loved reading your post, too funny!

    Reply

  90. NancyShoots Says:

    Ha, the only thing that could have made this blog post any better is if the event had been documented with photos.

    Reply

  91. meganchapple Says:

    I love spicy food, I put tabasco on everything and not the original stuff. Habanero! I once had a chilli eating contest with a Tunisian man when I was 17. We drew and I passed out in the 40 degree heat 10 minutes later but it was worth it.

    Reply

  92. laubao Says:

    I’m growing lot of chilli peppers here in Italy….I don’t really like too hot spicy dishes, but I like growing them.
    I’m growing the famous BIH JOLOKIA, the most hot in the world….if you want to try it!! Lot of friends always say that they can handle “hot”,..but that’s impossible to handle!
    Hope you’ll understand my english!
    Ciao!
    Laura

    Reply

  93. domesticdreamer Says:

    Wow this was funny. I used to work in a Thai restaurant, and I have so totally been that waitress before. I had a guy swagger in once asking for the hottest dish we had on the menu (Pad Prik Sod – usually I avoid walking into the kitchen if possible while they cook this dish, as I cannot breathe). Most dishes on the menu are med-mild, although you can ask for mild, hot, or hotter..
    When I brought it out, it was sent back, as it was not hot enough. Like those strips of chilli, curry paste, and peppercorns are not enough for you. Ok. I took it back to the kitchen where the chef would add extra chilli strips, then extra paste, then extra peppercorns, extra chilli flakes, whatever it took til the customer was happy. The diner sent it back 3 or 4 times, telling me ‘I can really handle the heat, trust me, this is not hot enough.’ This guy was obvs a machine. Finally, getting frustrated, the chef reached up and pulled off the shelf his own ‘perso’ chilli. The stuff he puts on his meals. I took the dish back out to the diner, and told him to let me know if he needed anything else, or how he liked the dish. Totally polite. I promise. The next time I walked past him he flagged me down while unbuttoning his shirt, sweating, eyes streaming, redfaced (I swear I could see steam coming from his ears and nose), and asked for a glass of water.
    These sorts of incidents would happen often enough that I would get to be able to spot these types by their swagger, their attitude, while perfunctorily glancing at the menu, before announcing ‘Whats your hottest dish?’
    Thankyou for this post, waitressing at that restaurant was one of the funnest jobs I have ever had, and you reminded me of some of the good memories.

    Congrats on being hot off the press :)

    Oh and the chef’s would recommend milk if something is too spicy…

    Reply

  94. Tristan Says:

    Excellent post, Byron! I laughed the whole way through.

    We’ve all been there – the choking back the fiery tears all the while acting nonchalant. I’ve come from being a spice nerd to spice diva.

    Reply

  95. scott38 Says:

    That was awesome. Reminds me of the annual “Hell Night” at the East Coast Grill here in Cambridge, MA. Every year this restaurant cranks out the most spicy food imaginable for this masochistic event, including the most spicy dish on the menu, the “Pasta from Hell.” It comes complete with a warning that folks should not order it, but they do, and then they regret it.

    Reply

  96. Go Send or Disobey Says:

    I love those restaurants where they say, “Oh that wimpy little white girl doesn’t know what she’s asking for.” Then I chow down and watch their jaws drop! Even more fun is watching my teeny, tiny daughter do the same thing. (Teeny as in small, not young. At 24 she’s barely 5 foot and 100 pounds.) Fortunately we are now regulars at a Thai place that will ratchet up the heat for us without even asking anymore. I think I’d like to find your Thai place and start at about a 19…

    Reply

  97. shoutabyss Says:

    Yeah, she probably was right. :) I think she was merely playing the probabilities, lumping you in with “most” people.

    In cases like that, having a similar scale is critical. 1 to 25. That’s a lot of options. Most places I know offer three. Of course, there is usually a “secret” super spicy option, too.

    The way the waitress played the conversation might be a tactic. If she said “you can’t handle it” and you still insisted on the 19, then she’s no longer liable. You were warned.

    What is it about spice? Like you, I really enjoy the thought of eating as spicy as I can possibly handle. Go too far, though, and I’m miserable.

    I once had the thought that I could save money by buying the hottest salsa which would allow me to use less and get my money’s worth. That was, of course, a very bad idea.

    Reply

  98. gaycarboys Says:

    the hotter the better, in all things:)

    Reply

  99. astronautel Says:

    This is fantastic! Gotta love a Thai challenge! Especially when you say your bowl is glowing, but your stomach continues to glow an hour after the meal!

    Working in a Mexican Restaurant my senses/insides have become quite immune to most levels of spice but I have recently invested in some “Hot Ranga!” Habenero Chilli Sauce. Horrible label but if you want a bite to your home cooked feed I reccommend it.

    Reply

  100. charlywalker Says:

    Mama Mia, that’s one speecy-spicy meal……….

    spread the humor:charlywalker.wordpress.com

    Reply

  101. Arjun Kapadiya Says:

    Haha,
    Being from India, we love our spice. I eat a lot too :P

    This was fantastic man, great work!

    Cheers,
    Arjun Kay

    http://arjunsmind.wordpress.com/

    Reply

  102. lavidaesta Says:

    I can’t handle spicy stuff at all, and I’m pretty certain that I would be half-way dead if I would go for 19. Creds!

    Reply

  103. andshelaughs Says:

    Loved this! Anyone who can use the word “nummy” and still sounds kinda masculine gets my vote. Great post – thanks!

    Reply

  104. johntidyman Says:

    I have to return to the piece and read it. I stopped at the end of the first paragraph. Man, I love that waitress! Did the screenwriter hear that line and have Nicholson use it?

    Reply

  105. Next Day Printing Says:

    Great writing, very entertaining! …emitting a low hum

    Reply

  106. flatland57 Says:

    Great story! Well told & hysterically funny. As a former waitress, I can assure you that you’re on the money about what the waitress did when she went back to the kitchen. You’re a sport! good stuff!

    Reply

  107. Lifestyle...Food...Fashion... Says:

    For any designated dish if the spice balance is missing…it can actually spoil your experience of fine dining!!!

    Reply

  108. ournote2self Says:

    Hahaha. That’s hilarious! Looks like she taught you a lesson. ;)

    Reply

  109. LittleFfarm Dairy Says:

    I vividly recall attending a Theravada Buddhist festival, where the food would inevitably prove gobsmackingly hot-and-spicy (and whilst my tastebuds have matured over the years, I’m still not quite the bravest of chilli afficianados).

    Being a buffet meal I opted to load my modest plate with the most innocuous-looking dish on the table: some simply-cooked whole french beans in a clear broth.

    I wolfed down a single, eager mouthful….arrrgh! Ohhh the pain of those explosive, sleek, green super-heated chilli-laden torpedoes ! But it would have been extremely impolite to have been rude about – or worse still not eaten – the “dana”, a shared dish offered at no cost to the recipient. So I was obliged (rightly so) to hoover down my plateful.

    Tears poured from my eyes, snot streamed from my nose, but I gratefully ate the lot. It might’ve been a difficult dish; but at least I managed to – well, “manage” it. And I must say…behind all those spices, it truly was, delicious.

    But the bottom line: it brought a diverse community together through the sharing of food, life, and laughter.

    No wonder, there were a few tears.

    Reply

  110. The Daily Flex Says:

    I’m actually a pretty big wimp when it comes to spicy food like hot wings or Mexican food, but when it comes to Asian soups I guzzle those things down. Still, I probably would have went with a 14 to be safe haha

    http://www.thedailyflex.com

    Reply

  111. toocreativeforthislife Says:

    I am a salsa addict. That pic looks like my pantry. I know they aren’t hot, just yummy, I don’t think any jarred salsa can balance flavor and hotness. So I try them all. You sir are very brave.

    Reply

  112. cassiebehle Says:

    Congrats on the Freshly Pressed – this was an excellent piece!!

    Reply

  113. truthspew Says:

    Too funny! I generally like spiciness but the Thai restaurants around here don’t play the number game.

    And the secret to anything with it’s spiciness from peppers is dairy. Be it cheese, yogurt, or a glass of milk. The calcium bonds with the capsicum and prevents it from bonding to your taste buds and delicate tissues.

    I also dig Indian food too. And yes, I can do Vindaloo like a pro.

    Reply

  114. REBECCA DAWN Says:

    LOL reminds me my first time with the evil scales of spiciness!
    My boss was buying us dinner at a resturant. I ordered pad Thai . First time ordering it. Talk about me being an idiot! The waitress never asked how hot I wanted. I got the plate, I took a bite, i nearly cried! It burned so bad! My boss looked at me, rolling his eyes. “You do know that there are levels of spiciness right?” he asked me.
    I stared at him, totally dumbfounded. What? Levels of spiciness?
    “Yeah like 3,4,5?”
    No I didnt know that. I couldnt finish eating my Pad Thai.

    Reply

    • Byron MacLymont Says:

      Some moments you’re just not going to turn around and suddenly look slick and in control. Sometimes it can at least be a relief to just figure, “Well, tanked this one.” Besides, then you have something to blog about!

      Reply

  115. squelchorama Says:

    I come from the rare Minnesota family where hot is a badge of pride, and I have long joked that my second eldest brother brushes his teeth with a habanero in the morning. So I can relate. I now live in Singapore, so not only face the skepticism that I take spicy food, but also that I eat fishball noodle and other ‘local,’ and that I can indeed use chopsticks (and quite well I might add!).

    I am always mildly offended by the question of whether I’ll be needing a fork and spoon as well as the presumption that I will want to drink beer. Okay, that last part isn’t far off the mark, but still!

    Fun piece!

    Reply

  116. Charlotte Says:

    Byron, your posts brighten my day. Thanks.

    Reply

  117. Blogdramedy Says:

    Admit it…you practically DARED her and no good woman backs down from a dare. This post reminded me of a line from Sex and the City…”You like spicy, Miss?” This was when Samantha was over for dinner with a guy who had an Asian maid, who had designs on Sam’s date. At the end of the episode, Samantha realizes…”Sum’s not that dim.” :-)

    Reply

  118. writerwannabe2011 Says:

    I would have been bleeding from the eyes! Great post.

    Reply

  119. uneforeigner Says:

    This did actually make me laugh out load, like proper laugh out load when there is only me and the laptop in the room, which is always kind of awkward. You’re like did I just laugh by myself? I might as well start talking to myself and get cats just become that crazy person. Anyway great story man!

    Reply

  120. Alice Says:

    lol you had me on the floor laughing. My husband is one such individual. only he would have gone higher than 12 and 16… lol, how awesome for you! are you going to heed the warning now? … its hard to say how spicy things are going to get from restaurant to restaurant though isn’t it?

    Reply

  121. sana naz Says:

    very beautiful post

    Reply

  122. Donna Amis Davis Says:

    This is hilarious! You are such a guy. You know, in Thailand, they actually have a little bowl of sugar to sprinkle on your Pad Thai to tame down the heat.

    Reply

  123. Bill Davis Says:

    Hilarious. Great post and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    This made me think of the salsa shop in San Diego where a few of the jars are indeed kept in locked cabinets and shoppers must sign a waiver before buying!

    -Bill

    Reply

  124. pithypants Says:

    And where’s the follow-up post? Any meal this spicy has a Part II.

    Reply

  125. Evan Says:

    Haha great stuff! But the Balrog could totally handle a 25.

    Reply

  126. offthefrontporch Says:

    Yikes! If a Balrog can only order a 22, who’s getting the 25? I cracked up at this post! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

  127. mikkoloves Says:

    confidential receipt,
    confidential food,
    confidential transaction,
    hahaha

    Reply

  128. maybz Says:

    I am just new here and this is the first one I read among many others…wooohooo…I have never been to a restaurant that gives you a scale of how spicy you want your dishes would be…hmm…I guess going to a restaurant like this requires preparation ha! like going to a grocery first to buy milk before heading to this Thai restaurant. haha

    Reply

  129. reinaprincesa Says:

    I love spicy food, but learning your limits is part of the experience. You have to choke down food that will presumably will leave you unable to taste anything ever again to learn that maybe next time, just a little less spicy. It is an exciting part of the process, especially the part where you wonder if you’ll ever regain your sense of taste.

    Reply

  130. xand28 Says:

    Working in hospitality and service industry is that attitude is more important than skills…

    Reply

  131. Yumolo Says:

    Wow this is inspiring!Your post just made me hungry. I really enjoyed your post .Love the photographs and your story!Thank you for sharing that.

    Reply

  132. johnzephjo Says:

    This post made me hungry. Nice Photos.

    Reply

  133. realanonymousgirl2011 Says:

    Ah I love this post! Good for you for manning up!

    Reply

  134. ali Says:

    what mean “Congrats on being hot”?

    Reply

  135. blowingoffsteamandmore Says:

    Hilarious!! Cheers from a new follower! I see this was written a long time ago so hopefully you took the advice of your other readers and tried the milk the next time!

    Reply

  136. kvennarad Says:

    “The Best Humor Blog in America That I, Personally, Write,” is probably about as good as it’s ever going to get from Marionettes Inc.

    Reply

  137. lindsayjohnna Says:

    God bless a well-timed Balrog reference! I live every day of my life just waiting for a LOTR reference to present itself. Well played.

    Lindsay

    http://untamedshrews.wordpress.com/

    Reply

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