‘Authentic’ not always what we expect

Published 11:24 am Wednesday, April 14, 2021

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I always enjoy going out to a restaurant to eat. I took that seemingly simple act for granted until it was snatched away from me as the world went crazy. Now that some sort of normalcy is beginning to peek its head out of the covers, I wanted to take full advantage of it.

I wanted to get out and spread my wings and make sure that the world beyond the four walls of my house was still there. As a result, we decided to cruise down the coast and enjoy a vacation laying on a beach and just enjoy life.

Once we arrived at our destination, I saw a restaurant that boasted on the sign that it served authentic Mexican cuisine. I wondered if the Mexican food that I enjoyed in my hometown was somehow an imposter. Maybe the tons of Mexican food that I have eaten before was just fooling me into thinking that I knew what Mexican food tasted like. Once we went in and sat down, I had to ask the server what was special about authentic Mexican food. After all, I knew what Mexican food was supposed to taste like. I had been eating at Taco Bell for years. I told the server that I wanted the full Mexican food experience the way he would prepare the food if he were eating it. The server asked if I wanted ghost peppers added to my salsa. I thought for a moment and since I didn’t know what a ghost pepper was I told the server why not. He just looked at me and a small grin began to creep across his face. I asked the server to bring some salsa and chips while I went over the menu. I saw my server go into the kitchen area and said something in Spanish and they all began to laugh.

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I began to eat the salsa and I began to feel like a cartoon character with fire coming out of my mouth and both ears. This salsa lit my tongue on fire and I felt the most intense burn of my life until my mouth finally went numb. In fact, my tongue felt like the inside of a wood stove. I began to reach for my drink only to realize that my drink had not arrived yet. A fact that I’m sure can be attributed less to slow service and more to a good laugh by the guys in the Kitchen who were still peaking around the door looking at me and smirking.

The salsa may have looked innocent enough but I assure you that it ended up being nothing more than Satan’s brew. I realize that some people actually enjoy this feeling and actually seek it out. I, however, do not. I don’t enjoy pain. I’m funny like that. I suppose my taste buds are the Mr. T. of the taste bud world. They appear to be tough but in reality, they are not.

What really surprises me is that very hot and spicy food seems to be the rage these days. By the time I finally received my drink, I felt like someone had put out their cigarette on my tongue. I am not sure what I was supposed to have tasted besides pain. I was gasping for breath and had to wave off two different people that wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver.

When the server arrived to take my order, my desire for the authentic Mexican experience had vanished.

With a red face and tears still rolling down my face I said, “Do you serve hamburgers?”