LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — A few weeks ago, I found myself moving a super-industrial dryer to gain access to the spice drawer. The dryer was one of many that were in place throughout the kitchen and basement after a pipe burst in our upstairs bathroom and water poured down through the ceilings. In fact, so stuffed was the kitchen with drying equipment that it was essentially unusable, so unusable the insurance company was actually paying for us to go out to restaurants to eat.
After three days of doing that, though, I was ready for home-cooked food. Luckily, my mother-in-law stepped in and brought over a pan of her lasagna. Which brings me to the spice drawer, wherein live the hot pepper flakes.
See, in the past few years, I have become one of those spicy people. You know the kind you see at Waffle House and they ask for Tabasco so they can coat their eggs with it? Or the kind you see at Kroger stocking up on Serrano peppers, prompting you to think to yourself, ‘Oh, so that’s who buys the serranos.’”
Yes, that kind.
But it was only while throwing all my strength into moving the industrial dryer, risking scratches on the floor, chancing that the equipment might break, daring my back to go out, that I realized just how much I’ve become dedicated to spice. Because I wanted those hot pepper flakes. I wanted them bad.
It wasn’t always this way. Instead, I was a kid with a milquetoast palate. Black pepper was out of the question. If pressed, I could handle Old El Paso taco seasoning mix, but I wasn’t thrilled about it. Even regular Colgate or Crest was challenging for these tender taste buds. And when I turned 18, I carried those preferences with me, challenging them occasionally at Thai or Indian restaurants but keeping the heat as tamed as I could.