Posts Tagged ‘hot wings’

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Dante’s Double

March 1, 2016

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You could fill Lake Erie with the amount of hot sauce I’ve ingested.

Nothing would live, grow or thrive there, so basically, it would be the same lake. I’ve been eating chicken wings at least once a week since I was around 17. Technically, chicken fingers were my gateway poultry. My buddy Ron and I got together every week to play video games and we commemorated the event with chicken fingers. And hot sauce. When I got my first apartment, I got my first fryer. Shortly thereafter, I gained about 40 pounds. Studies show that those two events were interconnected somehow. With no self control and the understanding that I was too lazy to deal with the mess of making wings at home, a new tradition was born: wings once a week. This is the point where I could say ‘A hero is born.’ or ‘This is the stuff of legend.’, but my artistic license expired yesterday. It’s best in this situation to borrow from the poorly named 1980’s Fred Ward star vehicle Remo Williams and go with ‘The Adventure Begins’. Cinephile Note: The adventure began and ended with that horrible movie. Let’s get back to the wings…

There are a lot of things that Buffalonians lay claim to: losing at football, losing at hockey on a technicality, losing on ‘Best Places To Live’…you get the picture. Chicken wings really did originate in Buffalo though, at the famous Anchor Bar in the city. Chicken wings happen to be the one thing about Buffalo I embrace. In the rest of the country they travel under the nom de plume of ‘Party Wings’ (makes sense), ‘Hot Wings’ (I like to use that one because it drives my boss into a fit of rage) and yes, ‘Buffalo Wings’. Hot Tip: If they’re listed as ‘Buffalo Wings’ on a menu, you’re probably at a chain restaurant that doesn’t have the faintest idea how to make chicken wings and you’ll end up with a soggy, buttery embarrassment in a plastic basket. ‘Buttery Embarrassment’ also happens to be how I refer to the loss of my virginity. Chicken wings are deceptively simple in their execution. Cook until crispy, douse in hot sauce with a fire hose and mix with butter for those with indigestion.

Around here, the base hot sauce is Frank’s Red Hot. I was not paid for that endorsement, but would like to be. Most places use Frank’s. In the rest of the country I’ve seen diners that give you a 2 oz. shooter of Tabasco for 30 chicken wings (I’m not sure how that would even work), Sriracha (which I’ve never had but would like to try) along the southern border and a lot of sad kitchen-made pastes that were more ketchup than anything else. Spoiler Alert: Ketchup does not resemble hot sauce in any way, shape and especially not form. My palate is so accustomed to Frank’s Red Hot that I’ve gone off in search of other strains of sauce. As a hot sauce enthusiast, you build up a tolerance to heat over time. Useful Factoid: A unit of heat with peppers is measured in ‘Scovilles’, whichb were named after the inventor of the system.

Unlike the rest of my family, I have the constitution of a billy goat. My older brother gets an upset stomach after oatmeal and my younger brother chews on Tums like they’re Tic Tacs. I was not paid for either of those endorsements, but would begrudgingly accept payment in the form of check, money order or chicken wings. By the time I was 25 or so, I’d worked my way up from Medium wings (half butter, half hot sauce) to hot wings (all hot sauce) to more explosive options. Sauces that incorporated jalepeno peppers (they deliver that extra mule kick to your mouth at the end of every bite) habanero peppers (which add a very distinct flavor to the sauce while incinerating your insides) and eventually, ghost peppers. Ghost peppers are no joke. On the Scoville scale, ghost peppers reside somewhere in the vicinity of Dante’s final circle of hell, if that circle included screaming, crying and praying on the toilet all at the same time.

Many argue that the hotter wings that are available aren’t enjoyable. While there is a small subsection of guys who feel the need to prove their masculinity by devouring wings they normally can’t handle, often can’t handle during their demonstration, and definitely won’t handle ever again without a medical staff on standby, some of us have worked our way up to it. Crying is a factor. It’s more of a chemical reaction than an emotional catharsis. It also takes place if you happen to wipe your eyes with the same napkin you used to wipe your sauce-spotted hands with. Or if you don’t wash your hands and scratch your eye hours later. Don’t do this with ghost peppers. Ghost pepper sauces will make you their bitch. Plain and simple.

I hate to say it, but I may have reached an age where I have to start traveling down the heat index. My endurance with the hotter sauces may have reached its apex. For every cause there is an effect. That, and I can’t imagine carrying an IV of blue cheese around with a stainless steel diaper when I’m 50. It’s time to put on the brakes a bit. Blue cheese is for punks. It’s an easy way out of the heat that serves to mask or neutralize it. Milk neutralizes the pain, too. I prefer soda. My Buffalo brethren insist it is called pop. They’re wrong. That’s neither here nor there, though. I like a nice cold glass of Diet Dr. Pepper with my wings. I was not paid or coerced by the good people at the Diet Dr. Pepper bottling plant, but would feign refusal and quickly accept large monetary gifts in the form of gold doubloons or solid ingots stacked in a triangular fashion.

Nowadays, I order a double (20) of wings every Thursday because you get a price break per wing at 20 and I can always finish them off for an additional meal time. The additional meal time may take place before I get up from the table the first time. There’s a great debate between drums (drumsticks) or flats (the actual wings) with solid arguments for both. Drums are easy to eat in public and they tend to crisp up better if you prefer yours crispy. I’m a flats man. My dad was a flats man and his father before him. We’re flats people. Honestly though, I like flats because they’re more tender, they soak up more sauce, they taste better on the reheat and they don’t have as much gristle as the drums. Believe me, I’ve done the research.

By a stroke of luck (and the one good genetic card dealt to me), my severe height has cancelled out any blood pressure issues that might accompany someone who eats a double of wings every week. It’s right on par. If I were a superhero, that would be my super power: Slightly Average Blood Pressure. Villains everywhere would tremble at the sight of my triage. I’ve been training for this all my life. Now I just need an outfit that’s stain resistant to the corrosive concoctions I crave.

Fired up,
Tom Waters

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‘Genetically Mortified’ from the upcoming book Travesty

August 3, 2015

I have lost the will to cook.

Now that I’m single again, I don’t have the initiative to prepare, cook and serve full meals. It doesn’t really make sense to me. I used to watch cooking shows morning, noon and night, research recipes and conjure up my own concoctions. There’s no point now. It’s very tough to cook for just one person, so I don’t. When I have my son, I somehow summon the willpower to make one of the four foods that he’s willing to eat (he’s difficult to please, which he subsequently gets from his mother), but the rest of the time my dinner could either be starch and grease out of a bag or a handful of potato chips and half of a flat diet soda.
I’m not sure if I was ever a ‘Foodie’ because I don’t know what that term means, aside from being a pleasant euphemism for ‘Morbidly Obese People Who Can Afford Rich & Exotic Foodstuffs’. ‘Foodie’ is a popular identifier for many, and I think it implies that someone is well-traveled when it comes to cuisine, or that they take extra care and caution to select only the finest ingredients for their palate. Everyone I know who identifies with the term Foodie is 347 pounds, with the singular exception of Food Network Host Giada Delaurentis, who looks like either a lit Jack-O-Lantern or a grinning jackal depending on the quality of the lighting.

I can identify more with being a glutton, which is an extrapolation of being a middle child. I grew up during dinner time with the knowledge that if I didn’t eat quickly, the food might be gone. As a result of this, I usually eat as if there’s a timed countdown and/or a gun to my head. Sometimes I chew. I remember reading a biography about John Lennon and learning that he went through a phase of chewing everything 37 or 38 times before swallowing in an effort to metabolize and fully taste the food while he was eating. I don’t have time for that nonsense.

These days my diet (like most of my life) has been oversimplified. I eat supermarket muffins every morning because that’s one less choice to make when I get up in the morning. For lunch, I consume two pounds of cold cuts making man-sized sandwiches with half a bottle of mustard per sandwich and a slice of cheese for each side of white bread. The guys at work make fun of me for preparing sandwiches of Dagwood proportions, but this is what I feel sandwiches should be. Dinner is my wild card. A great majority of the time I buy bagged rice meals (which contain 3000% of my weekly sodium intake, which is a relief because the salt licks I was relying on have really skyrocketed in recent years due to salt lick speculation in the stock market). The bagged rice meals are often on sale 10 for $10. So that’s about a dollar a week for dinner and a dollar per breakfast by my calculations (carrying the one squared and cubed).

Once a week (minimum), I eat 20 chicken wings for dinner. I’ve been doing that since I was 17. Every week. Depending on what part of the country you live in, they’re known as either ‘Buffalo Wings’ (which isn’t even a thing that exists in reality), ‘Party Wings’ (not sure how that term originated) or ‘Hot Wings’ (which at least makes sense). I typically order wings that are termed ‘Suicide’, ‘Death’, ‘Extra Extra Extra Hot’, or wings accompanied by an asterisked disclaimer advising you to stock toilet paper in your freezer for later that day as well as a silver bullet, Do Not Resuscitate paperwork and a crucifix over the toilet. I’m very fortunate in that I have a digestive system akin to a Billy goat, meaning that I can gnaw on tin cans for fun and profit in my spare time. Actually, it just means that I’ve been grazing on ‘Hot Wings’ for over twenty years now and I still don’t know what heartburn feels like. Trust me when I say that that’s the one positive gene trait I inherited.

I’m at the point with fast food and genetically modified foods where I don’t want to know more than I already do. If I read one more thing about pink goo being injected into reconstituted chicken tenders or wheat that’s sprayed with cancer in a test tube, I feel like I’ll reach a tipping point where I’ll be forced to make a major lifestyle change, and I’m entirely too lazy for that. After stumbling onto a few articles about the organic food movement and about how many non-food stuffs go into a to-go bag, I really don’t want to learn any more. Perhaps my hamburger is hosed off with aborted fetuses before sitting under a heat lamp for a month and then being passed through the drive-through window by a teenager who rinsed his hands in the slop bucket where E. Coli was born and originated from, but ignorance is bliss as far as I’m concerned. And from what I’ve learned about diet sodas, I could be dead before I finish writing this essay.

My diet is deplorable, but that’s an upgrade from downright godawful. I suppose I’m old enough to accept that moderation is not even moderately anywhere near or on my dinner table and that I tried the whole meat vs. carbs Battle For The Belt and I like them too much to root for just one. At my current rate of progress, I should be growing my own bean sprouts and filtering my drinking water through an old gym sock in approximately 128 more years. Fortunately, I practice a habanero hot sauce cleanse once a week. Rectally.

You’re welcome for the visual,
Tom Waters

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