Certains l’aiment chaud

by jemma margaret

This morning I saw a poster for Les dents de la mer, which if you can’t guess is the French title for Jaws (mâchoires en français).

Certains l’aiment chaud, by far my favorite Marilyn Monroe film, received a more literal translation over here.

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, I was at a Mountain Play performance in Marin of some Rodgers and Hammerstein musical and convinced my parents to buy me a lollipop. I chose a green one, probably hoping for sour apple.

A little while later I turned to my mother, “it’s hot,” I said. Indeed, the outdoor stadium seating offered little respite from the summer sun.

“Yes,” she said. “It is hot.”

“No,” I explained probably looking uncomfortable, “it’s hot.”

This attempt at clarification understandably failed. Eventually I managed to communicate that what was hot was my lollipop, flavored jalapeno.

In retrospect, two things strike me.

To begin with, can you possibly get more Californian than a jalapeno (how I miss them!) flavored lollipop? I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a nori flavored one too. Probably also cabernet sauvignon.

Secondly, what a confusion in the English language! Here, to ask for something spicy (which would be a freak accident to actually get), one says “piquant”–the alternative and more obvious translation “épicé” means spiced and hence probably without any kind of throat burning heat.

A  glance at my food stocks will reveal my piquant passions. On the spice shelf I have thai chiles ground with garlic and onion as well as whole dried cayennes. In the fridge is a pack of expensive small red chilis from the market here and a pack of cheap small green chilis from the supermarket in London (how could I resist?). There are also some pickled peppers in a small sack (cent grammes). Finally, I picked up two larger dried red peppers from a specialty food store in London after the shopkeeper warned me they were too hot. I’ll probably be bringing back some chipotle in adobo from my upcoming trip to New York. It’s no secret that I use Mexican food as a vehicle for the salsa. And if I could get my hands on the Zaytoon‘s hot sauce recipe…well, I might not eat anything else.

I was shocked and appalled upon moving to Vancouver that some of my colleagues found pepper jack cheese overwhelmingly fiery. Paris, I’m afraid, is not much better. I hear there are Indian grocery stores up around Gare du Nord, but have yet to check them out. The harissa I’ve tried so far is too salty to be consumed in anything but moderation. I bought the cutest bottle of rooster sauce at Tang frères, but it appears to be a milder version. So I make do, which unfortunately sometimes means smoking out my roommate who doesn’t like food smells, much less a powerful burning in the air.

They say eating spicy foods is an addiction. I say, some like it hot.