No Water, Eat the Bread!

Do you love hot and spicy foods or do you avoid them for fear of what tomorrow might bring?

Growing up in Pittsburgh limited my exposure to “spicy hot” foods – salt with a little pepper pretty captured the spice enhancements. We ate Chinese food one-time – I remember it was in Brentwood (?) on route 51 and I really liked the tea. We didn’t even eat at Taco Bell, I’m not sure there was a Taco Bell.

My introduction to spicy foods came when I moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to pursue a higher education. One of my first lessons was being served a bowl of jambalaya by some native friends who kept yelling “No water, eat the bread!” while I valiantly tried to eat the whole serving.

For the record, “no water, eat the bread” is pretty good advice.

After three years in this culinary state, I developed what the rest of the world would describe as a “high tolerance” for spicy foods. I loved my Tony Chachere’s and used it and Sriracha quite liberally. I was also introduced to Mexican food via a few trips to Mexico and several trips to San Antonio. I always ordered the chicken burrito, but my then-boyfriend would persuade me to try other things. He also took me to all sorts of Asian restaurants.

But I was 23. I could eat late at night, I could eat whatever I wanted.

I didn’t stay 23 forever and I eventually moved first to Western Kentucky and then back to Pittsburgh. Granted, Pittsburgh had changed (or I simply was now able to drive further than Brentwood) and I realized that there were more and more restaurants that served authentic ethnic food or fusion foods, anything that wasn’t Bob Evans was a delight to me.

But I wan’t 23 and I wasn’t consuming Cajun or Creole foods most days so I lost my edge and reverted back to white Midwestern form. I developed GERD and had an endoscopy. I began to learn what would trigger GERD – it wasn’t always spicy foods so much as what time of day. If I have something spicy, I need to eat it around 6 PM and I definitely skew mild. I’ll try all sorts of new things at the restaurant we try, but only if they aren’t too spicy. But I am realistic – if we have Mexican for lunch, I am having a somewhat bland dinner.

I’ve also learned a trick from Green Grandma to treat GERD or heartburn naturally using apple cider vinegar – I either make a little potion or I add it and some honey to a cup of herbal tea. Works well enough. It won’t resolve a late night eating fiasco, but it does allow you to sleep.

And I remember to always, always have bread – pita, naan, rolls, whatever is available.

What about our neighbors who don’t have as much control over their diets because they are relying on food pantries and other distributions? You can’t buy antacids with food stamps and you can’t necessarily buy bread if you don’t have a car or access to a store late at night. When you donate food, do you think about these sorts of things? And there are other considerations – acid damages your teeth so it is important to brush your teeth both if you get sick and even if you use the apple cider vinegar option (something you can buy with food stamps.)

You can help with a donation to Cathy’s Closet which will make toothbrushes and toothpaste and other items available to our neighbors.

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