We went to a game at the Edinburg Ballpark last week. The home team was the McAllen Thunder, something I'm still trying to figure out since the park is in Edinburg. Unfortunately for the Thunder, the sky was clear that evening. No thunderstorms in the sky, and less on the field.
I bought a fajita taco from a vendor sometime during the fourth inning. This guy wasn't part of the park concession stand. He was an independent operator, a street vendor.
I know, when you buy fajitas from a street vendor you have wandered into the strange and wonderful land of Mystery Meat. Fajitas originated long ago as a way of marinating and cooking a cheap cut of meat, the leftover parts of the cow that even McDonalds wouldn't put in their burgers, skirt steak. Then, somewhere along the line this lowly cut of meat became popular at fern bars. Now, when you go into the grocery store the fajitas are as expensive as the T-bones.
Since that culinary shift, there just hasn't been enough skirt steak to go around. Exactly what skirt steak is and where it comes from on the cow is one of the mysteries. And with all the skirt steak being bought up by TGI Fridays, what's a street vendor to do? They have to find something to put in those tacos. Hence, the Russian Roulette that is street food.
Which I played that evening. I'm not much of a risk taker, but every once in a while each of us has to take a Type A chance. Eating that fajita might not have been on par with bungee jumping off Everest, but I felt a little thrill never the less. And, my alternate dinner selection was hotdogs, the original mystery meat. I went with fajitas.
They came with a choice of this green and red mixture enthusiastically, and optimistically identified by my server as pico. Or I could go with this liquidy green stuff-mystery salsa. I chose both and liberally slathered each on my mystery meat. Looking back on it now, I realize there was something unusual about that pico and salsa, or perhaps combining the two. The whole process was sort of like that scene in every 1950s Sci Fi movie where the mad scientist pours some chemicals back and forth between two beakers until they start smoking. Then the whole lab explodes. When the smoke clears he discovers that whatever he mixed together has become a living acid blob. It crawls across the floor, then eats its way through the fifteen feet thick reinforced concrete bunker, and is now loose in an unsuspecting world.
That's similar to what happened in my intestinal track after eating that fajita cum pico cum salsa. As I chewed, the various ingredients mixed, and assumed a life all their own. They ate their way through my tongue, down my esophagus, through my stomach, small intestines, large intestines, then became a general menace to society, at least for the rest of the ballgame. For the first time that evening I was hearing thunder. It was coming from my intestines.
As they ate its way through fifteen feet of intestines, burning my mouth, my tongue, and my lips, I reflected on why I am drawn to foods that are too hot to handle-Vietnamese bun with extra pepper sauce, hot wings with the word Atomic, Scorch, or Death in the menu description, any and everything on the Thai restaurant menu with more than one chili pepper icon next to the name. Though I didn't reflect for long before running off to the restroom.
I'm moderately certain I'm not a masochist, though I'm not entirely sure what the difference between someone who asks a six foot blonde wearing black leather with and speaking with a German accent to whip them and someone who tries a raw Serrano at HEB because, after all, it's small, what harm can it do? The result is the same, complete, total, and in the case of the Serrano, public humiliation.
I readily admit, my heroes aren't ballplayers or cowboys. No, I reserve my admiration for Aarón Sanchez and Roger Mooking from "Heat Seekers." Two chefs on the Food Network, they travel across the country looking for the spiciest, hottest, dishes they can find. Every week they eat some concoction with that was originally intended as a recipe for anti-grizzly mace. I get a vicarious thrill from watching their faces, twisted in ecstatic pain when munching on some pepper with an exotic name I can't even pronounce. Type A culinary personalities, they jump off Everest every week. Who needs a bungee cord? Just give me a clear path to the restroom.