IT WAS Maya Angelou who famously said, “A bird doesn’t sing because it has answers, it sings because it has Ghost Pepper Fries” — a sentiment which held little meaning for me before the events of this past week transpired and when I fortuitously wandered into my local Wendy’s quick-serve (as they like to say) restaurant yesterday.
There on the illuminated menu board, or IMB, was news of a brand new, presumably available-for-a-limited-time offering known as, yes!, Ghost Pepper Fries, which might prove to — however briefly! — take my mind off other issues, and refocus it on the soon-to-be searing pain afflicting my tongue and esophagus (and later, I guessed, other parts of my digestive system). Or so I’d expected.
The ghost pepper, or jalapeño fantasmo as it’s called in Spanish-speaking countries, probably, is well-known as the hottest pepper on the face of the earth, measuring 212 decibals on the Richter scale, which can easily result in permanent tasting loss in the lower frequency range. It has a well-deserved reputation as the world’s deadliest pepper.
Wendy’s is now offering it diced and sprinkled delicately atop a bed of cheese-covered fries.
Screw it, sign me up — what the hell do I have to live for? Some say I have death wish; others might conclude I just don’t care anymore.
I ordered my usual meal — Junior Cheeseburger Deluxe, Value Soft Drink (Diet Coke — I’m watching my figure. Someone’s got to!) and Value Fries, but then here’s what I did: I flipped the gal behind the counter a couple extra quarters and upgraded [industry term] to these Ghost Pepper Fries of theirs. (Buy ‘em separately and they’ll set you back $1.99. Prices vary by location, I imagine.)
Here’s what I got:
The verdict: Eh, they’re, uh…they’re good.
French fries topped with cheese and peppers: What’s not to like? I love spicy food, though I do have my limits when it comes to the really hot stuff. But these were a walk in the park, and surprisingly, not a walk in the park where you’re suddenly doubled over, clenching, clenching, looking for a public restroom that isn’t already occupied with homeless men washing out their underpants in the sink or loitering in a stall, hoping to earn a quick 50¢ to upgrade to Ghost Pepper Fries of their own.
I’d go so far as to say that among a tray of fried potato slivers, cheese sauce and chopped-up jalapeños reportedly grown by Lucifer himself, these raw, diced peppers were the healthiest, or the least health-compromising, part of this side dish.
More importantly, I’ve finally realized something about America and food and the 21st century:
As with everything else today, food trends too are moving faster than ever. Believe it or not, we’ve already reached peak sriracha saturation and it’s clear that ghost peppers are the next big thing. And just like sriracha sauce, there’s no definitive, industry-wide standard for ghost peppers. Seems you can call anything a ghost pepper and there’s never any danger of being hauled up in front of a Congressional hearing to explain yourself.
I’ve a pal who’s growing something called “ghost peppers” in his garden this year, and they’re probably no closer to Bhut jolokia, the “true” Asian ghost pepper (illustrated a few paragraphs above, courtesy your precious Wikipedia), than the vaguely spicy peppers with which Wendy’s is garnishing their new menu item.
But like I said, these so-called “Ghost Pepper Fries” weren’t bad. They used all the ingredients in their basket, they got everything on the plate in time, and most importantly, presentation was flawless. If this were “Chopped,” Wendy’s would be moving onto the next round, which I imagine will involve something like a salted caramel burger on a red velvet bun.
* * * * * *
Update! [From a day after I posted this.]
Reader Mail: “Ted you [expletive deleted]! No one claimed the peppers on top are ghost peppers. They’re obviously jalapeños. There’s a ghost pepper sauce that they put on with the cheese. Maybe you should actually do some research before you go railing against Wendy’s, a national treasure.”
My Response: Maybe you should actually Shut! Up! Thanks for writing! Your t-shirt is on its way!
Any and all information about these Ghost Pepper Fries at my local Wendy’s was limited to the picture on the IMB, or Illuminated Menu Board, and if there were any specifics about what actually constituted Ghost Pepper Fries, in particular the ghost pepper aspect of them — and I don’t think there was — it was in print too tiny to read.
Okay, so apparently the “ghost pepper” element comes from some sauce that my taste buds and I didn’t even notice was commingling with the cheese. Bottom line: These fries were not “ghost pepper” hot; they were still good; and I stand by my assertion that “ghost pepper” has already become a trendy, ridiculous food buzzword that ultimately means nothing.
Folks, keep those cards & letters coming!
MR. WHISKERS never asked to be thrust into the bright, blaring spotlight that this fabulously successful website generated.
Indeed, it was out of respect for privacy that I changed his name and gender so he wouldn’t be mobbed by the, what, six readers this blog usually has.
Her name was in fact Sarah, and she was a lady, if we were to concede there exists ladies who, when a can of Friskies is being opened, are frequently so completely overcome by anticipation and ecstasy that they clasp a paw around a naked ankle and gleefully dig in claws and teeth.
I suspect we connected because we are both misanthropic loners living in a place we detest: misery loves company. She originally belonged to the neighbors and based on the fact that she spent almost all of her time in my side yard — specifically on my car (and presumably before I lived here, on a previous resident’s vehicle) — she was not happy in her own yard, nor was she particularly fond of the number of other cats that inhabited it.
A scaredy-cat personified (feline-ified?), Sarah was extremely timid and not an overtly friendly creature to anyone but me — a relationship that developed over a few years. I’ll spare you the innumerable, ponderous, interesting-to-no-one cat stories save this one anecdote: Before she “officially” became mine but after she had made the move from car to back porch, ever closer to inside my house, she was sitting on a patio table there one day when I was about to go for a run. I bent down to tie my sneaker, my head at about table level. Then I felt it: A fuzzy forehead pressed against my own and held there for a few seconds. This cat who to her dying day was never one to shower affection (indeed, the only time she was ever in my lap was when I held her as she was euthanized) spontaneously decided to mark me as hers with her noggin-based cat-glands, as some cat experts would interpret this act, or as others suggest, identifying me as safe and someone she could trust.
Either way, she was right: from that moment on, she owned me, and she had no further need to worry about anything. That trust was well-placed. I didn’t let her down and made the last five years of her life very, very comfortable.
Still, I got the better end of that deal.
LIKE ME, you love those “What-Is-It?” features in magazines and game shows and whatnot, where they take a closeup photo of something and demand that you guess what it is.
So here’s one I came up with just for you!
Guess what this is!
If you guessed, uh, I dunno, a bunch of popcorn crammed into some sort of popcorn ball…you’re wrong! But you may not be too far off! Nope, nope—not a scoop of yummy chocolate chip ice cream, either. What’s that? ‘Detail of the nooks and crannies of a delicious Thomas’ English Muffin?’ Good guess, but no! Hmm! What could it be?
Let’s pull out a bit and let you guess again:
Some manner of fungus found under a rock, attached to a tree stump, growing between my toes? Good, reasonable guesses, each one — yet all equally incorrect!
What could it be?!
Want to take another look?
“I recognize that!” I hear someone say, “Those are NASA photos of the surface of some far-away planet, with craters and ridges eerily resembling otherworldly faces, etched by millennia of violent meteor showers and enormous asteroids bombarding the extraterrestrial surface— or perhaps carved there by some ancient civilization.”
Fascinating! And you, sir or madam, are 100%…wrong! Ha!
Here, try again:
Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. “Parsnips, you sneak!” you bellow. “That’s the bedroom from your old apartment when you came home from vacation and found that the cottage-cheese acoustic ceiling was soaking wet from a leak in the roof, and dripped down for a full week onto your bed ruining those Huckleberry Hound bedsheets you’d had since you were a kid, and you, like a jerk, ended up settling with that cheap bastard of a landlord of yours for a hell of a lot less than you should’ve, you-jackass-you!”
Close! In fact, when you mentioned “ceiling” you were very warm — superheated, even!
Because it is in fact…
…the ceiling inside my microwave oven! And despite how terribly unsanitary/unsafe it appears, turns out this is the best microwave I’ve ever owned! And I’ll prove it by cooking a Banquet chicken pot pie for you.
Cooks in half the time the box says, and that’s with it just sitting on the counter near the microwave!
OVER the last year or so, I’ve seen tons (literally!) of mayonnaise and mayonnaise-type products make their way through my local 99¢ Only stores. Everything from off-brand to name brand, though having just written that, it occurs to me that there’s not a lot, if anything, in between.
But more often than not, that mayonnaise is name brand, and in decent-sized jars, too. Mostly it’s stuff nearing the end of its ‘best by’ date, which really means nothing, but in some cases, it’s unusual and sometimes unfortunate flavored mayonnaise.
But this was a new one on me:
That’s a gallon of Miracle Whip, folks!
And while it may be technically a “dressing” (and I seem to recall that Kraft used to refer to it as a “sandwich dressing”), it still morally falls under the category of “mayonnaise-type products.”
Anyway, a gallon of Miracle Whip comes in a jug is so big…
…it’s got a handle to pour it.
Believe it or not, I passed on it. And I challenge you to further believe it or not, but truth is, it’s not often I make anything that necessitates so much Miracle Whip that I have to pour it out of the gaping mouth of a huge jug.
But it was a mistake: Knowing how the Ted Parsnips Web Design Team loves their egg salad sandwiches (at least judging by the smell in the break room downstairs), they certainly would have appreciated it. What’s more, the simple gesture of giving a gift, however inexpensive, would no doubt have gone far to build bridges between upper management and lowly, hourly-wage pixel-pushers.
Heck, even if they didn’t use it in their egg salad, that wide-mouth jug would make it a snap to pour onto a bowl of Froot Loop Slightly Irregular Factory Seconds or whatever the hell the cereal is called that’s been strewn all over the floor and crunching underfoot in the IT department ever since one of them got back from visiting that Kellogg’s outlet store in Waterloo, New York.
Let me tell you, between inane tangents that have nothing to do with the original subject and specific references that only 16.6667 of my, what, six readers will understand, even I’m beginning to wonder where I get the nerve to click that “publish” button.
“Hang those who speak of less pollen! These mild allergy seasons are making us too soft!” —Experts.
REGULAR READERS of this blog will recall how a while back, there were some, eh, plumbing problems here at Casa Parsnips resulting in raw sewage making a short trip down the toilet, through the pipes into the crawlspace below the house, onward into the ground just a few feet from our lovely home — before building up sufficient pressure to blow the cap off the main sewage line and spewing you-don’t-want-to-know into the backyard for what was a sort of festive, brown-hued geyser that we had a dickens of a time keeping the neighborhood kids from frolicking in.
Roots in the pipes, Little Minerva attempting to get rid of the evidence of the ghastly B- on her spelling test (we’ve since shuffled her off to a home with less academic-minded foster parents), the result of the #2 Enchilada y Chile Relleno Grande Special from Sierra’s — who can really say what caused the unfortunate backup, buildup and blowout?
The important thing is now, $800 later, it’s since been remedied and now there’s a short length of rebar leaning next to the commode to be used to break up anything larger than a Hot Pocket before flushing.
Anyway, I was in the backyard a few days ago and I noticed this:
Oh, you’re not imagining it: Those are three tomato plants where the flooding originally occurred. And I’m not certain, but I’m almost positive that other plant will eventually bear jalapeño peppers.
My point in bringing all this up?
I’m simply saying that life…finds a way.
Also: I’d like to invite everyone over to sample some homemade salsa, and judging by how remarkably fast these plants are growing, let’s pencil it in for the second week in May.
“Hello, Emergency Credit Repair? I was denied for a Capital One Visa, I defaulted on my Learning Annex student loans, my FICO score’s somehow in the single digits, I have a bankruptcy on my record from a game of Monopoly I played with my sister in 1985, and the Salvation Army down the street won’t take my check for $3.99 to buy a pair of shoes I need to walk to the bank so I can beg them not to foreclose on my mortgage!”
“Sit tight! We’re sending the van!”
A magnificent example of home furnishing decor from the H.P. Lovecraft Collection, originally sold exclusively at Bed, Bath & Beyond’s Innsmouth location.
Discovered in the health & beauty aisle at my local Dollar Tree!
VitaRocks C Immune System Support Dietary Supplement!
“No Water Needed” reads the box. “Just Pop In Your Mouth!”
Like you’d be, I was intrigued. Could this be Vitamin C in fizzing candy form?! I gambled a buck to find out. For you, my readers.
Once home, I tore into that box and found fourteen of these packets inside:
So I ripped one open and what I found inside there, well, eh, I didn’t take a photo of.
Orange powder. Or it would have been, had it not been all clumped together.
I ingested it — and why not? — I paid for it.
Tasted like a pulverized chewable Vitamin C tablet, it did.
I thought I detected a bit of fizziness, so throwing caution to the wind (and possibly risking a Vitamin C overdose — what I do for you what, six, readers!), I dug into another packet, the contents of which were more powdery, less clumpy, and yes, fizzier.
Eventually, I read the damn box and yes, it confirms the popping aspect of this product:
“Enjoy a burst of orange flavor while getting immune-boosting benefits all in a great-tasting, popping vitamin!”
Fourteen packs for a buck is nothing to sneeze at, and the benefits of Vitamin C may well prevent you from sneezing altogether.*
*Sneezing is often associated with having a cold.
Despite the expiration date on the bottom being almost six months in the future, it seems that some of the contents’ packets were clumpier than others, with VitaRocks’ celebrated popping being more pronounced in the less clumpy ones (or, conversely, less pronounced in the more clumpy ones).
Still, I found that if it’s the popping that you’re aiming for (and you should be), clumpy or no, tap the contents of a packet into your gaping maw, but then chew it with your mouth open, like a damn cow.
For whatever reason, that seems to enhance the popping; but if you look like me (and you don’t), it doesn’t make for a pretty picture. A healthy immune system has its costs.
Presumably that “unfair advantage” refers to those of us who don’t have the resources to have our heads surgically removed and then grafted onto the bodies of muscular men of a different race.
Continuing with today’s head-grafting theme, which I imagine is a short phrase that has never been written before…
“Love your idea for the ‘Game of Thrones’-themed bottled water. Now, it’s not right for us here in Licensing, but we’re going to send your concept art over to the mortgage refinancing division of our corporation in case they can use it.”