Thursday, September 8, 2016

Pleasure And Pain

Yo La Tengo, "Return To Hot Chicken"

A loving ode to the Nashville dish hot chicken:

"Technically, hot chicken is straightforward. The flavor profile has likely evolved since Thornton Prince took his first bite, and every restaurant claims to have a secret preparation. But in essence, it is fried chicken coated in a paste largely consisting of cayenne and other dried spices with a splash of hot oil from the fryer. Because the paste is oil-based and searingly hot, the skin stays crisp, unlike buffalo wings, which are prone to either drying out or getting gloppy in a hurry. (Hot chicken predates the first buffalo wing by three decades.) The finished product has a lurid, reddish hue that, depending on the spice level, ranges from California sunset to the bowels of hell. Hot chicken is served with two mandatory accompaniments: a slice of plain old white bread upon which the bird is perched and a few pickle chips skewered to the chicken with a toothpick.
That’s it. It is, in my opinion, a damn-near perfect dish. The lines that separate love and hate, pleasure and pain, expectation and reality — they dissolve when you eat hot chicken. If you do it right, it will hurt. You might cry. And you will spend the next week thinking about when you might have it again."

Also, it's hot:

"The rest of the body responds accordingly. Your temperature increases. You start sweating profusely. The blood vessels in your face begin to dilate to rush blood in and out of the problem site, causing swelling and redness. Snot is dripping from your nose. But then you start to feel loopy. The body thinks it’s on fire, so it unleashes a wave of endorphins to help quell the burning. You start to feel something akin to a runner’s high. The sharp stinging pain will subside, but the rush — and subsequent sense of tranquility — lasts a bit longer."

Here in South Korea, it's not uncommon to hear a friend tell me that they'll eat the spiciest food they can when they're feeling stressed or depressed.  And now, Science!

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