One Day in Cambodia, this Happened…
I start to gag. Swallow, just swallow, I tell myself.
I gulp down the bite and put my fork down and stare at the rest of my “shrimp salad”, i.e. lukewarm, soggy shrimp covered in warm mayonnaise. I take a big gulp of my water and put my hand over my mouth. That. Was. Utterly. Disgusting.
So far the food in Cambodia has been quite bland.
Not bad, but not exactly good. This was baaaaad. Good thing it’s just a side dish and not my actual meal.
I sneak a peek over at Tom. We’re sitting on a bench in Butterflies Garden Restaurant, which doubles as a home for butterflies. Or a jail, considering the restaurant is completely enclosed in netting. It’s a nice atmosphere, albeit kind of a weird one since we’re sitting in the butterfly-infested garden in the middle of a busy street in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Tom is picking at his food, still looking a bit close to death. 5 minutes earlier I thought I was going to have to ring 911 – or whatever the equivalent of that is in Cambodia. Come to think of it, do they actually even have an equivalent of that in Cambodia?
Anyway, I was busy eating my main dish, a bean with pork wrapped cornmeal roll…thing. (Like I said: weird. Ok, ok, it’s probably not that weird in Cambodia. I’ll say different.)
Suddenly, Tom begins gasping for breath.
“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!” he wheezed. His face contorted and his hands and arms began waving and convulsing. I wondered for a moment if he was suddenly attacked by some poisonous, killer butterflies, when he spit out his food and began drinking water. He stopped after a few seconds and put his head down on his knees, moaning.
I, being the devoted fiancé I was, scooted a few inches away, worried he was going to throw up on me. I gingerly reached over and patted his back.
“Um, are you ok?” I asked, still not sure if I was going to have to figure out if Cambodia had a 911-type system.
He took a few deep breaths. “Pepper,” he panted.
I looked down at his plate where sure enough were the barely chewed remnants of a dark red pepper.
He raised his head a bit and he was red faced and his eyes were teary. I bit my lip to try not to laugh. Now that I knew he was not about to die, the whole episode seemed quite funny.
“Why did you eat a pepper?” I asked, incredulously.
“I didn’t see it!” he groaned. “I didn’t think they’d mix it in with the noodles.” He took another couple sips of water. “I can’t feel my tongue,” he said pitifully.
Then I did laugh.
Several minutes have now passed since Tom’s encounter with the pepper and he still seems scarred from the spiciest encounter ever in his life. I look deviously at the shrimp concoction on my plate. Maybe it will help get his mind off the burning…
“Hey, Hun,” I say soothingly. “Want to try some Cambodia shrimp? It’s really interesting.” If interesting is code for absolutely disgusting.
He looks at it dubiously.
“And it’s not even remotely spicy,” I assure him.
He opens his mouth and I shovel in a bite of the mayo slathered shrimp.
I wait for it.
It takes a second and a half and then his face contorts for the second time in the past ten minutes, only this time for a completely different reason.
To his credit, he manages to swallow it, and then glares at me through squinty eyes.
“That was the most horrible thing I’ve ever tasted,” he said.
I burst out laughing. “Yeah, it’s pretty bad, huh?” I keep giggling. “I thought maybe it would take your mind off the spiciness.”
He shakes his head at me. “Oh, you’re going down.” He picks up the red pepper. “Eat it!” he says and tries to shove it in my mouth.
I squeal and turn away. “I really will die!” I exclaim. I can barely handle the mild sauce from Buffalo Wild Wings.
He gives up, apparently too weak from horrible food experiences to fight any longer.
I give him a playful hug. “Love you, T,” I say in a teasing voice. “And see, you’re not thinking about the pepper at all anymore!”