Friday, June 15, 2007

Huh.

One of the things that absolutely horrified me when I was a child was the amount of pepper -- and peppers -- that my father required on his food.

That man would dose his breakfast eggs with an astounding amount of Louisiana hot sauce, then grab the pepper shaker and go to town until there was literally a pile of black powder on the plate -- and only then would his eggs be fit to eat.

He had this vicious little pepper plant -- Mom said he found it somewhere in the boonies during their college days -- that grew these little cherry-sized peppers that, when ripe, were piebald red and purple.

Lovely little peppers.

Whenever we'd move, Dad would take a shoot and some seeds from the plant to pack up for our new home. We must have left pepper plants all over the Near and Middle East -- and the thought of the amount of bribe money my Da spent to get his peppers through various Customs agencies boggles my mind to this day.

Anyhoo, Dad would collect the peppers from his plant, bung them into a jar and cover them with whisky -- usually blended Scotch, but occasionally a bourbon -- add some other stuff, tuck the jar away in a dark, cool place and leave it for about six months.

Six months later, in a secret magical ceremony, Dad would decant about half of the peppers into another jar for the 'fridge.

These he'd eat, one or two at each meal, for the next little while.

The other half jar of booze and peppers went into a blender, with a chopped red onion, some cilantro, lime juice, and other stuff, to be blended until chunky.

I knew this was a magical ceremony, because Dad would be surrounded by friends, some of whom would be gazing rapturously upon the peppers, grunting and nodding sagely as Dad would hold up each ingredient before dropping it into the blender; others who would be dancing in circles, making mystical hand gestures in front of their faces and uttering the magic "Gah!" word.

Everyone would tell me about how wonderful! the taste was, but the tears flowing copiously down their cheeks did something to my desire to actually try it.

Long time Gentle Readers will have noticed that when I cook, I always use MILD Rotel and mild seasonings. Anything spicier than "mild" is outside my comfort zone.

About twenty minutes ago, mind elsewhere, I made myself a chopped BBQ brisket sandwich and brought it here into the office. When I sat it down, the top slice of bread went awry -- and it struck me: somewhere under that pile of peppers is a bit of BBQ.

I'm turning into my father.

Huh.

My father died when I was 16. There is no "good time" for a father to die, but I think it's particularly bad at that age.

If someone had told me when I was 16 that I'd become my father, you'd probably have had a fight on your hands. Even a decade or so later, I'd've found the thought of becoming Dad to be amusing at best.

These days, as I search through the desk for my black pepper Spice Weasel, the thought that I've developed some of my father's mannerisms -- and tastes -- is comforting.

Happy Fathers Day, Dad. Love you.

LawDog

20 comments:

Simeron Steelhammer said...

It is said that we as boys, if we love our fathers, become more and more our fathers as we become men and grow long in the tooth.

Daughters seek men that remind them of thier fathers is also said a bit.

For me, I think I could do alot worse in my life if I only become a shadow of my father by the time the good Lord calls me home to supper. *wink*

Have a happy and safe one LD.

Orion said...

I was lucky - I had both my regular father and when I was about 7, a step-father as well. Everyone stayed friends on both sides of the divorce and my father was a *VERY* active part of our lives growing up and well beyond, into adulthood.

And I *AM* turning into my father. He was an English professor for many decades (ending with 30 years at Michigan State) in several countries. I started out as an Electrical Engineer, then a small businessman running a consulting firm and now? I'm a teacher. Math though, not English.

Your spice story reminds me of a friend of mine though. He's a spice addict. When I go to Mexico, I ask for the Gringo Salsa and enjoy my ketchup. My friend doesn't use regular hot sauce. He asks for the lethal brews. Usually it's one drop per plate of food of this stuff (the chef always cautions him that if he puts it on the food they won't take it back for any reason). He puts on three. He once asked me to try it. I got the fork to my lips and it literally - I'm not kidding - raised a blister. That was as far as it went.

I don't eat chemical waste.

Orion

Anonymous said...

Well, I've put Tobasco on my Waffle House cheesesteak omlet... tried it with three overmediums, but something about it didn't hold my attention. Otherwise, it's just plain old black pepper, preferably course ground since I don't much care for breathing that chemical weapon that is pepper dust. My parents and I have this Mexican restraunt we like to eat at regularly... they have the best salsa in my part of the country. Sometimes it'll light you up. Most times not, so it's a surprise to get it hotter. Just the same, I always wait for my sweet tea first. Never had to call the medics.

mustanger98 on THR

Ambulance Driver said...

From reading your stories, growing into your father isn't all that bad a way to turn out. And no doubt he'd be proud of you today.

Arfin Greebly said...

LD,

Dammit.

You made my eyes water, and I'm not eating anything hot.

If I somehow managed to grow into my father, I would consider it an honor.

I have long felt those were shoes I could not fill.

Every time I review the integrity with which he has lived his life, I find myself wanting.

Maybe someday.

On the other hand . . .

Your father, as he watches from his bench in Valhalla, has much of which he can be proud.

I think he would also be amused.

Some of us are cursed to grow into those whom we respect.

There are worse things.

~~ ArfinGreebly (THR)

phlegmfatale said...

I took some hot sauce as a host gift for some friends in England once, and one of them took a taste and said "it's rather like licking a nettle, isn't it?"

Quite.

Your dad sounds like an amazing and delightful human being to take after. Bless him.

Anonymous said...

Sounds familiar. My dad would really pour on the black pepper. He'd make lunch for me when I was little kid and he'd dump the stuff on eggs and potatoes and my eyes would water. Any time he cooked (which he would do quite often-he was good at it) it was going to be heavy on the pepper.

I also lost him far too soon. I was 12. Just a terrible time for a boy to lose a father and it was difficult to watch him taken slowly with a long illness which slowly destroyed him. Lost my mother several years later.

I still smile when I reach for a pepper shaker.

DW said...

If you run out of pain in your life, try Scorned Woman Hot Sauce.
Have something oily handy to kill the heat. Wicked stuff.
I have a friend who buys his Tabasco by the gallon (really) he uses about a half a regular bottle a day.

If I could grow into my Dad, it would be the greatest expression of my love for him. He was always my hero. I suspect yours was too.

KBCraig said...

Thank you, LD.

I'm sorry that you lost your Dad at 16; I had mine until I was 36, but the loss wasn't easy.

My father was a superhero, who could do anything and everything, and do nothing wrong. Shaving his face and wiping his bum at the end of his life was a privilege, not a chore. I am grateful that I was there there to repay a small part of what he gave to me.

Father's Day is never easy. When my kids (four sons, one daughter) make a fuss, I feel inferior to the memory of my own father.

Perhaps it's the Scots blood. It's a grand heritage!

Kiki B. said...

Lord,

Please keep me from EVER, EVER turning into my mother.

Amen!

Anonymous said...

'Dog,

Your missive brought tears to my eyes...for the heat AND the memories.

My Dad too was a 'hot' eater. I remember when he began teaching me to cook, breakfast, naturally was first. He'd cook mine, then I his. Started innocently enough with oatmeal, but progressed rapidly to those, what he called then, "Texas omelets". Which of course were a couple paltry, suffering, eggs surrounded by and buried in any manner of diced HOT-peppers, coupla tablespoons of tobasco, some of his 'special' sauce, a smattering of meat and cheese, and, voila, instant firemouth. We progressed over the years to lunch and supper, but I could never quite get around that 'hot' stuff.

Dad passed suddenly. The week before Father's Day. He'd been hospitalized for some inpatient testing whilst I was out of town for a week. Got home in time to find that out. Ok, we'll pick him up tomorrow morning, ten'ish. At 04:26 the phone rang....

I remember too, the day I trundled out of the shower, wiped the mirror off, looked, and said....Dad?

I find myself using lots of pepper these days....

Thanks

Anonymous said...

I'm fortunate to still have my father. I'd consider it an honor to be as good as him when I get older but I'd settle for being half as good as him.

Honest. He's never lied to anyone even people who if I had my way would be stood against a wall & shot.

Tough. He's as close to a Spartan in modern days as you could get except for the gay stuff. He has a bad back now & is in constant pain but he manages to keep right on trucking through the pain.

He's my hero.

I've never seen him like peppers like LD's dad but when we order a pizza he'll use some of the crushed peppers on it. I do too.

Anonymous said...

I like peppers, but I've met my match at a Thai place in Lubbock, TX. Beware the medium beef. Should have known something was up when all the kitchen staff started watching me lift the fork. Felt honor bound to finish, what with all the witnesses and all, but I could feel every striation on my esophagus for several hours after supper.

LittleRed1

RobC said...

Great story LD.
I am lucky... I still have my Dad, he hits 80 this year but looks like middle 60's!
He still potters around making iron garden furniture and bricabrack for family and friends. His welding still looks like the metal fused and he rarely needs to chip the flux... it just peels off as he runs the bead.
Yes we look alike... he has more hair!

Dr. StrangeGun said...

Ahh, peppers and eggs... heaven for me is green tabasco on a fresh hot omelette full of cheese and chili.

There are a few bottles of the habanero varieties of sauce in my refrigerator, but the use is few and far between. I much prefer the "fruity" flavor and a little to a lot of warmth than a scorch that takes all the flavor away.

I'm rarely happy with black pepper too. I think it goes stale, perhaps in the grocery store or warehouse if it's cheap enough.

Raggedy said...

I am sorry for your loss.
Your post is beautiful!
Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories with us.
Hot Pepper BBQ is yummmmm!

Scott said...

Law Dog,

Welcome to the Chile Head World. I've been there for about 5 years now. In fact, I just wrote a post on my blog about spicy food. I think I would have loved the magical whiskey n pepper ritual. When a college buddy of mine and I learned that capsaicin is soluble in alcohol, we mixed up a strange concoction of tequila and habaneros.

http://forgingironman.blogspot.com/2007/06/capsaicin.html

That is awesome that you wrote a post for your Dad even though he's not here any more. My Dad is alive and I didn't think to do that, of course he doesn't read my blog, so it's no big deal.

Rick said...

Huh,

My Dad (Texan Regular Army type) used to put Nuc Mam on his eggs over easy. Mom (Minnesota schoolteacher) put a stop to that the day the nuc mam bottle broke in the fridge, and she had to toss out EVERYTHING in the fridge.

Anonymous said...

My father died a little more than a month ago. I swear father's day ads with gift suggestions were tough to deal with.

This post had me misting up too, but a bit better sort. I remembered my younger brother eating a jalepeno pepper with the most terrible look on his face and tears welling up so he could be like Daddy. I had forgotten that one until today. Thanks.

Debbie

triticale said...

My father was into bland. The only time I ever saw him put seasoning on anything he ate was a couple shakes of salt on watermelon.

I, conversely am turning into my son, who was weaned on a jalepeno. I'm going to have to make a batch of that whisky-based hot sauce to share with him, for a little variety. Mostly he drinks Texas Pete.