The other night, the Better Half and I ordered some Chinese food.
One of the things that I like about the area where we live is the decent selection of good carry-out. While none of the local offerings are nearly as good as what I could get back in New York City, I am not such a fool as to expect such things. Frankly, the bounty of really good, (relatively) cheap food of all kinds delivered to your door is one of the things that I miss most about living there. Considering how far removed we live from any particularly populous ethnic neighborhoods, I’m pleased with the quality and variety of what we can get now.
But I laugh in the face of the little chili pepper symbol the local Chinese place has in its menu. It is meant to denote “spicy dish.” But the spiciness in question is clearly keyed to… let’s say a “domesticated” sense of what is meant by “spicy.” Only people who never eat anything hot would think those dishes require any kind of warning. (The Indian place we order from has a more respectable sense of heat. When they ask “mild, medium or hot” and you choose the latter, you get some real heat there, though it doesn’t blast your face off.)
I will admit to a certain cockiness when it comes to those little spice icons in menus. I like to think that I can eat like the [insert ethnicity here] people can, that I am an Authentic Food Appreciator. No namby-pamby, watered-down, white bread spicy food for me. No! When I want something spicy, I want it spicy, dammit!
Except every so often I go to one of those restaurants where they haven’t bothered to recalibrate the heat for Western tastes. Maybe the chef is newly arrived from Bangkok. Maybe they’re just used to catering to real members of the [insert ethnic group here] community and can’t be bothered to adjust for unfamiliar tastes. Whatever. And in I’ll stroll and I’ll see the little chili symbol and I’ll laugh to myself and order the item. Sometimes the waiters warn me, and I wave their concerns away with a nonchalant smile. And then I take a bite and it blows my face off. But because I would rather polish off a Liquid Plumr margarita than admit to a random stranger that I was wrong and lose (what then remains of my) face, I will smile weakly and choke the entire thing down, knowing the whole time that I will pay once again in a day or two.
So that’s this week’s Question — how does life occasionally remind you to be humble? How is your pride kept in check by the world? When have you had to choke down a helping of your own hubris? (I have a rather longer story about my trip to the Taj Mahal and how I Learned an Important Lesson about Knowing One’s Limits, but it’s best told over drinks when everyone has plenty of time.)