Spicy food is confusing, I don’t really understand it. Well, no, not all spicy food – just overly spicy food. Food that’s hard to eat. I just don’t see the point.
There’s an amazing curry house in Wandsworth that we used to order from, The Chutney on Alma Road. Quite often we’d get a Friday night takeaway from there, getting them to deliver it even though it was only a five minute walk because, sod it, Friday night, save the effort. I’m set in my ways and would generally order the same thing, either a chicken tikka masala or a moghlai gosht (shut up, I know I’m unadventurous, but that’s what I like), and every single time they’d respond to my order in the same way: ‘Are you sure, sir? You know that these curries are very mild?’
They knew it was me. Every time I called, my details must have popped up on the system because they read my address out to me before I even started ordering. And yet they always made the point that I was clearly ordering a dish that was specially formulated for little girls, kittens, and other creatures with sensitive mouths and temperaments. Surely a grown man wouldn’t want to order a curry that wasn’t crammed with eyewatering chilis and sphincter-loosening spices?
This isn’t The Chutney’s fault, of course. The surprise they register is the result of cultural conditioning by the stupid, overly-macho British public. There’s a clear and baffling mindset of the average bloke that if you’re going for a curry, it’s got to knock your socks off. Perusing the menu with other blokey blokes, it becomes a sort of spice arms race as the posturing one-upmanship gets increasingly out of control. ‘I’m going to order a vindaloo.’ ‘Yeah, well I’m having a tindaloo.’ ‘You guys are pussies, I’m going to get them to make me a squindaloo.’ ‘That’s shit, I’m going to make them remove all of the meat and replace it with some brimstone and razor blades.’ Oh, do fuck off. Who are you trying to impress? This sort of behaviour is ridiculous – you’ve gone out for a nice meal, why not just enjoy it? What’s the point of spending your money on food that you can’t physically eat? Your tongue will burn, your lips will tingle, your bumhole won’t thank you in the morning, and your bullish bravado will force you into putting out the fire with pint after pint of lager (because you’re a laaad, oi oi, tits, football, banter) whose bubbles will actually agitate your burning tongue, rather than doing what you’d certainly do if you were in that kind of oral discomfort at home, which is to drink lots of soothing milk.
You see this happen in Mexican restaurants too. A couple of families will be sitting together at a table; the children will be excitedly jabbering away as all kids do when they get to eat out in public, the mothers will be gossiping over a glass of wine, and the dads… they’ll be acting like a pair of utter pricks, noisily challenging each other to eat more and more jalapeños in the hope of impressing their ever-more embarrassed kids. There’s just no need for it. I guess the family man likes to feel that he’s off the reins a little because he’s not in the pub with the lads firing back Jagers or, yes, in the curry house ordering a bazindaloo, and this pepper contest is some kind of small victory.
Lads, blokes, oiks and berks of Britain: it’s OK to enjoy spicy food in moderation, no-one of any significance will be judging you. I don’t know where you’ve got this silly idea from, but it’s not the end of the world if you order something you’ll actually enjoy rather than trying to prove how much gastric distress you can cause yourself whilst wearing a false smile and trying to work out where the toilet is. Just order what you want. Get the korma, make yourself happy. Cream and coconuts are nothing to be ashamed of.