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Hot Stuff and Halliburton.
By Ric Orlando
I am making fiery Thai chile relish today. I don’t really have plans for it, but it will last until I can squeeze a nice Thai special onto the menu. Gotta sell out of catfish first.
I encountered a nice bag of those sharp, red bird chiles in the “Herb Box” in New World’s walk-in cooler. They have a beautiful, numbing heat. I remember picking them up at Lee’s Asian Market in Albany last week. I threw them in the box and forgot about them. Now here they are. My frugal chef’s brain immediately cues my internal worker bee to use ‘em up before they go bad. So as I am peeling the shallots my eyes tear and the paper cut on the soft pad of my forefinger burns like a bee sting. The radio in the kitchen is always on in the background. I am listening NPR in a room full of Latin cooks who don’t understand of word of it. I am the boss. I listen to the news. They think I am smart.
Strong aroma of shallots. Intimidating bowl of chiles. Amigos blocking the sound out. Dick Cheney lambasting liberals. He says we are giving in to Al Qaeda by not backing Idiot Bush’s escalation of their war in Iraq. The sound bite is short and nasty. I start to slice the tiny peppers into concise rings, discarding the stem. If you leave the chiles in rings, they go right through you when you eat them. It is a weird but satisfying kind of cleanse. Am I the only person on the planet who wants to throw punches when Cheney speaks?
So he was the head of Halliburton. Now he’s running our government and giving all of my tax dollars to Halliburton. Remember the $400 toilet seat scandal back in the ‘80s? That was Halliburton. Remember when the Senate and Congress worked so hard to convince us that the Government couldn’t do anything right? Back in those foreboding '80s they duped us all. Our congress privatized our military. So now instead of Government engineers and army cooks we have Halliburton. Dick Cheney’s former company is doing all of the work for 20, 30, 100 times as much money as it costs to have the Government do it. No bids. No audits. I put the chiles in a bowl with the shallots and cover them in smelly fish sauce and a squeeze of lime. I offer a bite of the red chiles to Armando, an El Salvadorian prep cook. He looks scared and backs away as if from a snarling Doberman. Is he scared enough to hand over his taxes to Halliburton’s shareholders? Is he afraid that if we don’t keep enriching the Chinese bank accounts of Cheney’s friends, the evil sandpeople will come and blow up our National Monuments. Armando is blissful, clueless, doesn’t even know where Iraq is, probably hasn’t ever seen a map of the Middle East. But he knows that the hot peppers will burn him on impact today and he knows that he will regret it tomorrow.
So when Cheney lies to terrorize us, don’t we think about the burn that’s coming? How he and his neo-cons want to break our government. How they want us all in fear. I think about crispy black bass drizzled with the chiles and shallots and the smelly fish sauce. That will be my Friday Night special. Crispy Black Bass with an Intimidating Red Chile Relish. 23.95. Bass is expensive. Maybe I’ll add a little Thai basil to sweeten it up. That oughta sell.

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