Home World Travel We Ate the Hottest Food on the Earth! Ode to Andhra Pradesh

We Ate the Hottest Food on the Earth! Ode to Andhra Pradesh

19 min read

Ed Landry in JordanHave you ever been on a huge roller coaster that literally was like one continuous gasp? When the white knuckle ride finally roars into the loading zone and comes to a hard, abrupt, slamming stop, you just sort of let out a slow sigh of stunned relief and everything is deathly quiet for a moment. You feel almost like you have gotten your life back. That is what my wife will experience when I die.  I think the first thing she will do is rest for four years. She deserves it.

Once I started coloring outside the lines I just never seemed to want to go back to the mundane and everyday. I was born in California so that might be part of the problem. Rightfully called the Granola State, it is a land of fruits, nuts and flakes. I will leave it at that.

But, you ask, why write a book just because you are a bit weird coming from the west coast and just because your life is filled with incredible swash buckling, heart pounding adventurous exploits and spiced with humor. Of course that is all true but that is not why I am writing a book. The real reason is that my wife wants me to write it. I reminded her that I am the captain of this ship but she reminded me that she is the Admiral.

Janet and I have been married 50 years, have been Christian missionaries for 35 of them and have literally travelled all over the world working in various cultures. We go places that tourists never see and that is probably why our experiences are not exactly normal, sometimes downright incredible. After all these years it is time to put all those adventures in a book for our children and grandchildren. It will be called Laughing Into The Wind. We find humor in just about everything, even two terminal diseases we have been through and survived. You will get some of our stories in this Blog.

Ed and Janet LandryThere is more to say but I hate long introductions and anyway, that is what this blog is for so let’s get started. Let me try to at least tell you what this collection of stories is about and I will do it in one sentence. Wait a minute. If I could do that I would just print business cards.  You are going to have to read it for yourself.

PS: The top photo was taken at Jerash, Jordan. As missionaries we like to blend into the local culture. I bet you couldn’t tell I wasn’t Jordanian. Now, come join us and buckle up . . .

– Ed and Janet Landry

location map of Andhra Pradesh, IndiaMy friend and I really love hot food. It was 1987 and we were on assignment in Southern India with a group called The Bible League. We had visited remote villages in the interior and had returned to Andhra Pradesh and needed a rest. This particular region of India has the reputation of having the spiciest and most deadly cuisine on the continent. Dog and I (yes, his nickname is “Dog”) were looking forward to a good meal. We needed a break from the village food, especially the rancid Ghee we ate sitting on dirt floors with cats crawling on our food. By the way, Ghee, when it is fresh, is clarified butter but Indian Ghee that has aged in the heat for years sitting open on a shelf has the flavor and texture of dog vomit so we were ready for a change of diet. It was good to get back into a city.

Dog said he wanted to eat some of the famous hot goat meat of Andre Pradesh. I told him I wasn’t sure it was a good idea. But, he asked our guide where the hottest food in the region was to be found and we were led to this dilapidated, hole-in-the-wall eatery. As we were walking in one of the customers was being dragged out either drunk or unconscious with what looked like severe facial burns. It was really disgusting. His friends were all laughing. I reminded Dog that I REALLY didn’t think this was a good idea at all.

When we sat down Dog made it quick and simple. He ordered the hottest thing on the menu. Our guide was impressed. I was scared. I was sweating before we even started to eat. There was something acidic in the air. As a former firefighter, I remember thinking as we walked in that there must have been a fire next door in a battery acid plant. My eyes were burning just sitting there and it was getting hard to breathe. The waiter smiled as he carried out the food and gave a high five to our guide. Half the restaurant stopped eating and watched us since we were Americanos and no hotter food existed.  Dog said, “Wow, let’s do it.”  Oh, what the heck. How bad can it be?  We dove in.

an Indian curry dish
Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons. Photo by Stuart Spivack.

I want to try to describe the experience without scaring off potential missionaries or travelers. But first, something needs some explanation.  There is a pepper grown in India which is called Bhut Jolokia. In 1987 it was the hottest known pepper in the world.  We call that pepper the Ghost Pepper in America.  OK, back to our story.  He ordered the hottest Ghost pepper, goat meat dish that they made.  If you ever travel with a man named “Dog” don’t let him order lunch!

Bhut Jolokia or Ghost Peppers
Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons. Photo by Vikramjit Kakati

We began.  By the time the first bite of the hot goat meat reached my stomach, I felt like I had just gargled Drano.  You could actually feel the skin peeling off the throat and falling in sheets into the stomach.  My bowels started cramping just for practice knowing they would be called on big time shortly. It soon developed into a rebellion of the entire body.  I kept eating. Macho Ed was not going to wimp out. It wasn’t long before salty sweat stains covered my shirt and pants.

Limca soft drinkLet me introduce a very important word at this time – Limca. Limca is an Italian soft drink similar to a lemon-lime soda.  Since they don’t often have refrigeration in the interior of India the bottles are kept covered in cow dung to keep them cooler. I gulped down the entire bottle in one breath. Chunks of dried cow dung flaked off onto my sweaty shirt. I restrained myself from drinking another Limca and decided to try some of the rice to calm my gurgling stomach. I like rice. This wasn’t rice. This was chunky style paint remover. There were pock marks on the ceramic plate. I went back to the goat meat. But before I started again I ordered another Limca.

I looked over at Dog and he was looking pale and his smile was gone. “You OK, Dog?” He looked kind of scared and then in a quick, manly recovery said, “Sure no problem.” But his voice broke and he sort of squeaked the words out.

I took another bite of the goat stew. At the table next to us a man had fallen to the ground unconscious and his friends were pouring beer all over him. I made a mental note. I don’t drink alcohol but somehow, I could see this happening to me. I kept eating…

I think it was the next bite that melted my lips off. If you have eaten extremely hot food you learn it is wise to observe how the locals do it. They never let the food touch their lips. Anyway, it didn’t matter now, I had no lips. My biggest concern began to be brain damage. I finished my next Limca without taking a breath. Our guide said he had never seen a Limca consumed that quickly. It was also the first time he had seen someone shake the carbonated beverage and hold his thumb over the bottle while spraying it all over his face. I was able to buy an ice cube and just wiped it over and over on my throbbing, missing lips while moaning. The pain and insanity increased for the rest of the meal.

It was then I noticed that Dog was not looking very good. He was bent over in pain with a horrible gas attack. His intestinal track resembled Mount St. Helens and when it erupted three minutes later he literally cleared the table.  Two people eating nearby moved to another table.

Then my intestines started to send an equally urgent message. I excused myself to pay a visit to the local comfort room. As I stumbled past the table where the two had moved I grabbed an unfinished Limca from their table and poured it on top of my head. I barely had time to reach the bathroom and sit down when steaming lava erupted from the heart of the earth. We are talking about a Richter 10 caustic explosion. I needed another Limca to wash off but I had none. I wanted to sit on an ice cream cone. My eyesight was almost gone. I barely recognized Dog when I went out. He was leaning over the table waiting for something else bad to happen. His chin looked like he had been drooling paint remover. I think his mouth was totally paralyzed. The entire front of his shirt and pants looked like he had fallen into a restaurant grease trap. He asked where the Limca was and I just told him I was going outside to die in the alley. He said, “OK.” Both our brains were now gone. We had no lips, brains, bowels, or shirts left. We looked like we had been beaten senseless by a herd of rabid monkeys and dumped into a pig trough.

I went to see Dog the next morning in his hotel room. He was half conscious sitting on the floor in the fetal position. I noticed three empty cases of Limca scattered around the room. We both had trouble talking. We ate yogurt the rest of the week. Our lips did grow back and our bowels returned to normal pre-volcanic activity. I have never been normal since. I twitch a lot when I talk. Sometimes I just slobber when I think about it.

It turned out that India was just the beginning of memorable goat stories I was meant to experience.

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7 Comments

  1. Raoul

    June 13, 2018 at 4:50 pm

    You’re a funny guy, Ed. I can just imagine how you felt. When I was courting my wife a mutual Indian friend of ours invited us to dinner. He asked what kind of food we wanted and we innocently told him to prepare an authentic Indian dish. When we arrived, the smell of the cuisine was all over the place. He cooked a whole pot of the stuff. My friend took a bite and went to tears and did not eat anything after because her taste buds were shot. I dutifully ate the bowl but I cried all throughout.

    We remained friends but he never invited us to dinner again.

    Great story. Looking forward to more of your adventures.

    Raoul

    Reply

  2. Tom

    June 13, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    I’ve known Ed Landry for nearly 12 years and have heard him tell this story a couple of times before. I laughed until I cried. I read this story again and laughed until I cried. Ed is a funny man, a great writer, and a phenomenal missionary (back then and now) who has all of his ducks in line. To know Ed Landry is to love him. He is infectious.

    Reply

  3. Del

    June 14, 2018 at 3:36 am

    I repeatedly laughed out loud as I read this story. I’m Ed’s son-in-law, so I’ve heard him share the story live and in person. I think I laughed more, while reading it…he’s a creative writer. Ironically, I’m typing this, while I’m on a mission trip to Accra, Ghana and Nairobi, Kenya. I’m not as adventurous as Ed…I’m eating the blandest food I can find, while I’m here (smile). In any case, I look forward to the next addition from Ed & Janet’s crazy adventures. We can all use more laughter, so bring it on!

    Reply

  4. Ron Gaskins

    June 14, 2018 at 8:04 am

    I’ve known Ed for nearly 50 years … since his first wobbling steps as a baby Christian. He was funny then; and I believe God has honed his humor to a keener edge each step of his journey.

    What a great story – perhaps, with only microscopic hyperbole. God has used Ed’s humor well and I celebrate with him in this new endeavor in levity. The Lord knows we all need to laugh at ourselves for what I think of as sanity hygiene.

    Plus … there are reasons that speakers use humor: It is a psychological truth that an audience (even of one) is much more receptive and responsive to any message delivered with appropriate humor. One’s walls of resistance come down when endorphins are released in our brain through laughter. You’ve all seen it happen when in the heat of an argument; someone drops a humor bomb into the situation and the whole atmosphere changes.

    Simply put, the old adages that a ‘spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down’ is true – as is “laughter (the sugar of conversation) is good medicine”. Laughter prepares us to hear a message that might otherwise be resisted. (Credit: Mary Poppins and Solomon – Proverbs 17:22)

    This is why public speakers are often preceded by humorists, or they open with their own jokes.

    I agree with Del above. Bring it on … Load the wagon high, and unload it often.

    God bless our hurting sides and the culprit who brings the hammer.

    I love you, Ed and Jan Landry. Who could have ever dreamed of the adventures God has brought your way? Certainly not this simple country boy who was a part of privileged audience in your first few steps of faith. Hallelujah!!!

    Indeed! Bring it on!

    rg

    Reply

  5. Anna

    June 15, 2018 at 7:36 am

    Lol! Great story! Allie liked the ice cream comment haha

    Reply

  6. Lyndel Mie

    June 15, 2018 at 8:24 am

    Hilarious. I’d love to hear the story from Dog’s perspective, but maybe he didn’t survive to tell about it. Keep up the good work. We all need the humor! -Lyndel

    Reply

  7. Davd Clark

    June 16, 2018 at 3:28 am

    ” I LOVE IT” My eyes a watering as I do this. Been waiting ,keeping them coming!!

    Reply

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