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Examiner
  • Jason Offutt: Hot enough for you? Oh, yeah

  • The hand went up in Row H, Section 121. I marched down the concrete steps of Royals Stadium (not Kauffman Stadium yet, not by about 10 years) in my blue and yellow vendor tunic, as a stainless steel basket of sterno-heated faux nacho cheese and potentially stale tortilla chips banged against my thighs.

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  • The hand went up in Row H, Section 121. I marched down the concrete steps of Royals Stadium (not Kauffman Stadium yet, not by about 10 years) in my blue and yellow vendor tunic, as a stainless steel basket of sterno-heated faux nacho cheese and potentially stale tortilla chips banged against my thighs.
    I worked at Royals Stadium during high school, vending nachos, Coke, and the occasional load of peanuts between the team’s only World Series appearances, missing each by a season. Although I sold a variety of overpriced munchies (I will never again eat a hotdog at a ballgame), I was at heart a nacho man.
    The nacho tray clanked as I sat it on a step in 121. I slipped on a pair of plastic gloves and shoveled chips into the flimsy plastic serving tray.
    “Those jalapeños hot?” the customer asked as I filled the cheese cup from a dripping ladle.
    I grinned. Showtime.
    “No, sir,” I said, theatrically grabbing a fistful of sliced peppers, leaning my head back and dropping the whole mess in my mouth. I grinned as I chewed and swallowed, not flinching once. “Not hot at all.”
    The man nodded and motioned for me to pile them on, which I did. When I made it back to section 121 about 20 minutes later, the man called me an SOB, which I suppose I was. But that was my talent: I could nearly eat fire.
    Time changes a lot of things.
    My college friend Steve is an engineer whose company sends him around the globe. And wherever Steve lands, he ships me a bottle of hot sauce. I take that back. He doesn’t ship me a bottle of hot sauce. He sends 21-year-old, fire-drinking Jason a bottle of hot sauce, and 21-year-old Jason hasn’t been home for a long time. Heck, I go for the banana peppers at Subway.
    But I had to try.
    The Jamaican Wildfire Hot Pepper Sauce went down OK, and the Australian Chilli Willies Pepper Sauce had enough mango it didn’t hurt too badly, but the sampling from Chile showed me that even at my best, I was just a boy playing a man’s game.
    The sauce in the bottles of Aji, Aji Chileno, Aji Cacho de Cabra, and Salsa Roja de Habanero burned like I’d eaten something that didn’t occur in nature. I’m more and more convinced habanero peppers were created in a covert government lab to destroy the taste buds of every living human so we’ll eventually accept Soylent Green.
    There’s one bottle I haven’t tried. It sits in the dim, dark recesses off our tallest kitchen cabinet, and probably glows at night. Toro Diablo Salsa de Aji Putamadre.
    Page 2 of 2 - Toro means bull, Diablo means devil, Salsa means, well, salsa. I’m not sure about Aji, but it sure seems to be a popular word on Chilean packaging. And putamadre? I’m pretty sure I know what that means, and I’m afraid to open the bottle.
    I wonder if we have any Tums.
    Follow Jason Offutt on Twitter @TheJasonOffutt.
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