Epicurean S&M

Epicurean S&M

: Tim Blair is collecting happy horror stories of hot sauces and food. Here’s my contribution:

When I was a lowly rewriteman on the 4-to-mid shift at Chicago Today (a paper that had no tomorrow), we used to get subs from Danny Giampietro’s Grandaddy Submarine Shop, off in a neighborhood where mobsters were occasionally rubbed out.

Danny marinated his fresh veggies and oil with incredible peppers, making them all volatile. It was as if innocent carrots had been sent to a tough prison and came out murderers. The oil could have fired a rocket to Mars.

I claimed a weak stomach. But my editor, doing his impression of the editors in Superman and Spiderman, growled at me and said he’d have no girlie man editors on his shift. He made me eat the subs.

The 4-midnight shift came to judge the heat of the pepper-and-veggie mix by the veins in my temples: The bigger the bulge, the hotter the heat. “Wow, look at that, you can see the kid’s pulse. It’s a good batch today,” they’d say.

Lore has it that the peppers cured my delicate stomach problems by cauterizing it.

Once, my editor allowed me to go pick up the sandwiches at Danny’s. This was an honor, for it required delicate diplomacy. Only friends were welcome there, if you know what I mean. As I walked up to the place on Grand Street, it was filled with guys in dark shirts, if you know what I mean, buzzing. As soon as I opened the door: complete silence. I walked up to the counter and said to Danny, “Milt sent me.” Danny nodded to the room. The buzz resumed.

Danny died some years ago and his shop closed but his legend lives on.

And my stomach is still impervious to fire.