Saturday, September 6, 2008
"Tell me what you eat, I'll tell you who you are."
-Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Once, in our younger days, my brother went to town and brought back a hot dog and a curious offer.
He had purchased the former for himself, taken one bite and then uncharacteristically had thrown it out the car window in disgust and torment. It was a chilli hot dog, but one so fiercely hot that my brother could not swallow the little mouthful he had torn off.
He disposed of the item but was in some agony anyhow, such was the violent and unexpected aura of red-hot spice.
My brother, as I have stated, returned home bearing one of those very hot dogs and an offer.
What is this? an astute reader might exclaim: did he not fling the thing out the window? Or was he then a scavenger of his own roadside castoffs?
The offer was this: upon discarding the food, my brother struck upon a plan. He returned to the scene of the culinary crime and ordered another hot dog.
He had paid the sum of one Irish Pound, he told me. If I could manage to eat the horror, I would be the happy new bearer of that money. If, however, I failed to consume it entirely, I would be the sorry loser of one Pound.
He would pay me to eat it, would extract money if I could not.
The deal was on, and I set to work at the grim task. My brother would of course watch closely while I attempted the feat, his hand outstretched in expectation of financial equanimity.
The very juice from the hot dog was akin to a combination of paint thinner and burning coal; as such, taste was of little consequence and my tongue, anyhow, was rendered incapable of speech, much less luxury of palatable preference.
Oh, wicked, wicked fellow that assembled such a cruel morsel, that most assuredly steeped his patrons' fodder in tubs of volcanic lava before selling them under the guise of a light snack. Light Snack? I tend to lean more toward the title of Lighted Snack for such a fire feast.
Numb tongue, disfigured lips, melting cheeks, scalded throat, eyes that poured streams of water- obscuring both the flaming hot dog and the grinning brother- not one of those elements could halt me in my determined tracks.
I ate the hot dog.
One must understand this: I had no money to spare. I was not inclined to propel myself into debt to my sibling and for that reason alone I ate the vile mouthful, piece by piece, pain by pain until it was gone, vanished along with the look of glee on my brother's face. That last had been replaced by another expression uncommon to my brother- one that I dare say struck a fragile balance between fear and respect.
Triumphant, I accepted the money; but since my eyes were shrouded in a rather alarming mist, some time passed before I could see the note properly to ensure it was genuine currency.
Posted by Phyllis Hunt McGowan at 11:40 AM