I am shrewishly certain that there are obsessions more odious and vices more villainous in this unnatural world than an addiction to hot sauce, but, frankly, when the boyfriend can't eat a meal that doesn't instantly give him mouth ulcers, things have got out of hand.
It all started with Borrowdale SPAR's pickled vegetables which, as I've pronounced previously, will burn a hole in your gullet and cause the most grotesque sobbing you could ever choose to engage in. But this particular pickle is of such a toothsome quality that anyone would happily eviscerate their tonsils just for a small taste of absolute goddam heaven.
When I arrived home, still panting and frothing at the mouth like a scandalized beaver, I relayed every sordid detail of my orgasmic experience of this chili to the boyfriend.
"What's the god-honest point?" said he. "I like to actually eat my food, not use it as some sort of Tibetan torture treatment!"
"Sacrilege!" shrieked I, and determined then and there that it was my Fates-ascribed duty as his cohabitor to ensure that he would one day appreciate the delectations of violent and searing chili if it was the last thing I did. And so, with his more sensitive palette in mind, I began with an entry level condiment that would safely introduce a pink-tongued custard-stripling to the world of red-hot roasted rations, namely: Dr. Trouble (Lemon, Hot).
"Eh-HEY!" shouted Florence upon my arrival and unpacking of the groceries. "So you want to get into trouble??"
"It's perfectly harmless!" I said.
"Mxm! That's what the monkey thinks about the crocodile on the water like a log! I know today you are looking for Trouble!"
And indeed I was, for there is nothing better in life than getting into a little bit of trouble, especially when it comes to food.
As I flounced about the kitchen, sweating over the black cast iron pot full of stir fried greens, Florence picked up the bottle once more and, seeing the "Hot" label, raised a halting hand like a preacher who feels the fiery anointing of the good Holy Ghost coming on.
"Mhmmm! Today is today!"
"Today is today!" I agreed vehemently.
And we did a sort of Tonga war dance in the two by one meter kitchenette as the boyfriend poked his head out of the office and watched, with eyes wide like a mongoose on a misty morning.
I had prepared an innocuous supper, of course, something to tempt him to use condiments, my hand outstretched in deviant love, ready with the Dr. Trouble.
"Just try it! A smidgen on the end of your knife."
And so he did, tentatively tasting a tiny trace and then, surprised, pleasantly, like a Zimbabwean at petrol station with full tanks, began eating with gusto.
And so began the chary chore of Duncan's chili eating.
It only took three whole bottles of Dr. Trouble to realize that we were practically drinking it while Florence raged about poisoning our pancreases and losing the ability to taste forever. We decided we needed something slightly more effective that we would use in smaller amounts, which would make it last longer and, with any luck, fool that shrewd Minister of Home Affairs into thinking that we were no longer, at her appropriate advice, incinerating our intestines. To that end, we stood in the condiment aisle at Pick n' Pay, with the beady eyes of critics, pawing at different brands of hot sauce and repudiating all the mild labels like we were Mexicans born in the sweltering heat of a habanero chili plantation, drinking the milk of mothers who ate more jalapeños than the red devil himself. It was there that we came across Banditos' Habanero Sauce. We decided to play it safe with the 6/10 and, after tentatively dipping forkfuls of noodles into a small teaspoon on the side of our plates, we found that it was rather the same potency as Dr Trouble and hastened to buy the 10/10 which we were sure would not disappoint.
And it didn't.
With an immoderate millimeterage of what I was soon to discover is the hottest sauce to be bottled south of Mexico in Africa daubed all over my baked potato, I set about eating with that intractable arrogance that every Mozambique raised Landrey has ever had about chili. Forkful after forkful, one, two, three and then, suddenly it hit me like I'd swallowed a bag of blue-bottles and, my brain almost hemorrhaging from the burn, I went flying to the freezer to swallow an entire packet of frozen peas instead to stave off a gushing nosebleed. My cheeks stuffed like a chipmunk with ice and other frozen items, I returned to my seat, collapsing and fighting heart failure, while Duncan, to my great exasperation and disbelief, was pouring half the blazing bottle onto the remainder of his potato, humming like it was Heinz ketchup.
I had created a monster.
"'At is 'ong wif yoo?" I demanded through melting ice cubes and soggy peas.
"What are you talking about?"
"Oo ah going to KILL orself!!!"
"I can't understand you - what are you eating?"
And I replied, spitting out the contents of my gerbalish cheeks onto my abandoned plate, "You can't eat chili like that, for god sakes!"
But eat it he did, and, through sweat and shakes and some mild heart palpitations, declared that it was the best meal he'd ever eaten.
It followed then that the entire bottle of 10/10 Habanero hot chili sauce lasted Duncan all of 3 and a half days and during that time Florence in her wily way weasled out of me that it was indeed a far hotter sauce than any we had ever bought and declared emphatically that Duncan would get stomach cancer if he wasn't careful. But every meal I cooked, drenched in half bottles of Mexican fire-sauce, was too bland for the belly-aching boyfriend who longed only for chilis hotter than any grown on this and any other known world. Concerned, I suggested that he may have a problem and that therapy or an anonymous group may do him some good. This however did not waylay the maniacal chili champion and, in a last-ditch effort to curb his chancorous craving, I went in search of the hottest chili Zimbabwean toilet paper - I mean bond notes - could buy.
I heard first of this disturbing decoction of flaming feral fire plant on the esteemed Zimvine where a consternated consumer decried the sale of a chili so hot he had to get it not only out of his cooking but out of his house and surrounds and life, if you please, and what, dangnabbit, was the ever loving point of a chili so violent that one could not eat it.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what I put my hope in!
Fates above and Furies beneath, I had found it!
I purchased it one sultry afternoon at Food Lovers Greendale. It sat, inconspicuous on the shelf, with a rather average logo that read: HOT in great flaming letters made out of actual red chili peppers, and, on the side, as though the front banner were not portents enough, screeched VERY HOT. I slid it through the check out, smelling victory. The teller said, "So you like hot stuff?"
To which I replied, "Veritably,"
To which he countered, "So do I," and I noticed then that he looked me up and down and winked and I stood sort of agape like a toad bereft of a tirade, and said, "Ah, yes, well, must be off, vices to vanquish, all that - cheerio!"
The boyfriend greeted me at the door and I offered him a sandwich with immediate effect, which he accepted and asked, as he had not stopped asking for months now, for extra chili, and I said, like any good housegirlfriend, "Yes darling!"
I basted his sandwich with HOT (for that, to my knowledge, is its actual name), conniving and convinced, and handed his cure to him on a silver platter, hovering nearby, awaiting what I was certain would be my victory.
What I witnessed was nothing short of traumatic. This once pink-tongued custard-stripling devoured his dinner with such voracious virility that I thought at first the taste had not caught up with him, but oh, how wrong I was! How I underestimated this beast of a boyfriend who was champing down this virulently venomous chili like it was his reason for living!
"Is this new?" says he.
"Yes," breathe I.
"My eyes are vibrating," quips he.
"Oh God NO!" cried I. But they were, visibly.
"It's delicious!" shouts he.
"I think we should go to a hospital!" falter I.
"Oh no," flaps he, adding another teaspoon to the corner of his sandwich, and, with a shit eating grin, devours it almost neat.
"OH-HO!" screeches Florence! "I am going to call Nyaradzo!"
Ladies and gentlemen, I fear for my beloved's innards as they are likely near incineration, and, should he father children in the near future, I fear our spawn will come out like little burning devils with a penchant for pain.
I am, fretfully,
The Inscrutable Shrew