I injured my husband at Pancho Villa, in a chile eating contest. We had long debated having a chile contest, and since he seemed to be able to eat as many spicy foods as me. People assume he has the advantage since he is Mexican, and grew up eating Cuban and Mexican food with all their accoutrements. Our battle site was Pancho Villa on 16th Street near Mission. Pancho Villa has an impressive array of jalapenos, chiles, and salsas. I ordered carnitas nachos with the works, and he had a burrito. Our witnesses were: Christian Berthelsen and David R. Baker of the San Francisco Chronicle. Each of us had a Negra Modelo as a chaser (although beer isn't a good idea if you want to diffuse a chile's heat-it only helps spread the fire. Try yogurt or dairy instead, or Oscar says to lick salt.)
First, we tried pickled jalapenos, which had a low to medium heat level. No problem for either of us so far. We moved to a dark red salsa, a smooth and rich blend that heated the throat at the end of the taste. Oscar started to look sweaty as we moved on to other chiles. He even protested, "It's not fair! It's like she's eating a peanut butter sandwich!" as he pointed to me and David and Christian laughed. We moved on to a few other heat blends, dipping the hot salty chips.
Our finale was Oscar's downfall and my triumph. I picked up a small red Chinese dried pepper, and ate the entire thing, whole. It had the strongest kick and fire so far, and made my eyes slightly water. It made my mouth a little sore, too. Oscar picked up his pepper and took a small nibble. He grabbed my beer and swilled, then dove into the sour cream and tomato on my nachos. I somewhat cruelly responded by throwing down a double dog dare, by picking up another pepper and eating it whole. His face had become flushed, and he was sweating. Small red pin pricks that looked like bee stings were spreading across his face. His eyes watered.
"Now that's sad, Oscar. Do you give up? Am I the winner?" I asked. He was stammering and at a rare loss for words. David and Christian laughed and clapped, and I continued to munch on the red chiles. I wondered to myself, 'What kind of woman does that to her man? Was I humiliating him? But wasn't it the teeniest bit fun?' I was declared the winner and Oscar continued to gulp and sweat, his face still blotched. This battle of the tongues and wills may not be repeated anytime soon, but I'm willing to go up against other chile eaters anytime. It's good when it's hot!