When traveling, there are a few rules I always try to abide by.
Firstly, do not, under any circumstance, look like a tourist. When one is traveling with me, fanny packs, daypacks, cameras strapped around the neck at the ready, or any other telltale sign of tourism are prohibited. You might as well wear a sandwich board around your neck screaming “Look at me! I don’t have a clue about this city, so do with me what you will!”
Secondly, do not wear sandals. I like to walk as much as I can. You cannot fully experience a place if you are looking at it through a window. It would be like looking at the polar bears in the zoo and then telling your friends you cuddled with them. It is a lie and everyone knows that because your face does not have any bear claw marks.
Lastly and most importantly, eat what the locals eat. You would not go to Italy and eat a Big Mac. You would not go to South Africa and eat a Big Mac. Big Macs are meant for consumption at home, in the dark, away from everyone that can judge your food choice.
Visiting the south this week has brought a number of foods to me. Currently I have a bag of Moon Pies sitting behind me, waiting for me to try them. Apparently, foods involving waxy outer coatings are very popular in Georgia and Tennessee.
I have also witnessed Peach Cider, boiled peanuts, and Cajun boiled peanuts, amongst other things. In the same vein, I decided to try hot chicken today.
Hot chicken is simple. You take fried chicken like pretty much anyone has ever had, only instead of a nice crispy coating, you have a nice crispy coating that has been seasoned with something that is clearly from the bowels of hell. In Nashville, Tennessee, there are a number of places that claim to have the hottest chicken. None of these places brag that it is the best tasting, but they are certain that they can melt your face better than the next guy.
Deep in the heart of Nashville, there is a place called “Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack.” It is known for having unpleasantly hot chicken. This chicken is so “good” that it prompted Food Network’s resident idiot Guy Fieri to leave a poster declaring the chicken to be “off da hook.” Shakespeare this is not, but it is high praise from a guy who saves the phrase “off da hook” for only 200-300 establishments a year.
After a lengthy ordering process, I picked up my chicken, medium heat, and sat down. I do not know what I expected. I had eaten hot chicken before. I like hot chicken. I was so sure I would like this hot chicken that I ordered the second level of heat.
As it turns out, they call it hot chicken for a reason.
I might as well have rubbed a Habanero pepper on my tongue. It was hot in a way I had never experienced before.
Determined to make it through, though, I glanced at Guy Fieri, hoping to garner some of that “off da hook” strength to make it through. I took a bite, silently screamed to myself, took a gulp of my drink, then started the process again.
How could anyone stand this? I looked around, watching people feast on the chicken, smiling across the table to the person they were eating with. A table of older women stood up, walking out like they had just finished a great delicacy. There was laughter and idle chatter.
Somehow, there were no screams.
I have no intentions of changing my rules for travel. I steadfastly believe in them and anyone who ignores these rules while traveling is missing out on an experience. An experience like sweating and downing a drink, all because of a piece of chicken.
Maybe my rules do need a little work…
- Hot Chicken. Hot Damn. (mrbibbshouseoflove.com)