April 05, 2008

Tandoori Chicken: A Cautionary Tale

Last night I went to a banquet where the cuisine consisted of institutional versions of foods from various other countries. They did a pretty good job, I have to say, but the problem with institutional food isn't so much that it's bad (unless, of course, it is!) but that's never going to be all that good. It's going to be a lowest common denominator kind of affair.

This was the case with last night's tandoori chicken. I was under the impression that tandoori chicken was spicy and covered with some kind of blood-red powder. Last night's tandoori chicken was chicken-colored, and not particularly tasty.

Now, if you've known me since the bad old days, you're reading those words, "tandoori chicken," out loud in a high-pitched West Virginia accent, because you've heard this one before, and maybe because you know Charlie.

Charlie and I were 2 of about 10 people crammed into an office with maybe 6 desks, back in the early 90s. Charlie was a little bit older than most of us, and he was married to Mary, whom he usually called Mare. I think she was a little older than he was. Charlie was from West Virginia, and he liked to party. He was not a particularly good role model. He had a cartoonish drawl, but Mare, although also from West Virginia, did not.

As a truly pathetic recently divorced guy, I used to get a lot of dinner invitations, because my friends' wives felt bad for me, even though many of them thought I was a bad influence on their husbands. But there was no way I could have been a bad influence on Charlie. Getting invited to Charlie's usually meant an excellent meal, preceded and proceeded by a lot of drinking, smoking, etc. Some of the things I remember happening at Charlie's that might have been that night, but might have been another night also, are as follows:

1. Dan and I were over there celebrating a dissertation defense (not mine--Charlie's?), listening to Kind of Blue and drinking a bottle of Glenfiddich out of little tiny glasses with one little tiny ice cube in each glass. I've never been very cool, but I was cool that night. Except that I might have quoted Anthony Michael Hall talking about "Chicks can't hold their smoke," but I don't remember. Rumor has it that Dan stopped at Taco Bell on the way home and ordered something like 17 tacos. Didn't he know that's what White Castle was for?

2. Mare going to sleep early, or trying to, because she had a real job to get up to the next day. Charlie kept turning up the music, and she hit the roof! That night, when it was time to leave, we couldn't wake Charlie up. We thought he might be dead, but we were afraid to wake up Mare to tell her. So we just left him lying there. We figured if he was alive, we'd feel stupid, and if he was dead, he'd be dead in the morning. He wasn't dead, as it turns out. Whew!

3. A raccoon that had been terrorizing Charlie's balcony (3rd floor!) manifested itself in the dumpster. Charlie was intent upon shooting it with a rifle, and we barely talked him out of it.

4. My nemesis G Comma Lord B vomited dramatically and publicly. (To be honest, I wasn't even there that night, but I heard about it and feel like it belongs here somehow.)

ANYHOW. Quit distracting me. I do remember that on night, or a similar one, Mare made some kickass tandoori chicken. And it was red. I had a raging appetite that night for some reason, so I ate like it was my first meal in a week. It was almost certainly the first meat I'd had in a while. And it was spicy. Throw that in with whatever else got ingested that night, and by morning, I felt bad. Bad like I was going to die. I usually didn't get hangovers, so this was something definitely out of the ordinary. Whatever could be wrong?

How do I tell this without getting really gross? It's probably not possible ... okay, let's just say that in the morning I discovered that the meal was not sitting well with me, and it (more accurately I) had to go. Follow me? So in the process of taking care of business, I discovered that I must have been fed broken glass and razor blades the night before, because I WAS F---ING BLEEDING OUT. I mean, the toilet was full of blood. I was afraid to even leave the bathroom, but I needed to call 911. I wasn't even sure I'd make it to the phone without passing out. I'd never seen that much blood before--well, at least not mine.

As I tried to collect my thoughts, I started to realize something. I actually didn't feel that bad. In fact, all things considered, I was feeling pretty good. Better than I had ten minutes ago. I certainly didn't feel like someone with profuse internal bleeding. And then it dawned on me ... I had eaten about 9 pieces of tandoori chicken the night before, each one covered in some kind of red dye. What I was seeing was the unfortunate aftermath. It was the digestive version of Hollywood special effects. I was so relieved I laughed out loud, and I might have cried a little.

I don't know anybody who enjoys a self-deprecating anecdote more than I do (hence this story). So I went in Monday morning to work and told Charlie the story, and all he could do was hoot "TanDOORI CHICken!" in his excessive hillbilly accent, about two octaves higher than his usual speaking voice. And when I read those words, I can hear that drawl.

Hmm. I kind of feel like there should be a moral to this story ... but the only one I can come up with is, if I say a story is going to be gross ... Yes, it's going to be gross. I warned you.

And those of you who found this blog by searching the internet for tandoori chicken recipes, I am truly sorry.


Unknown said...

I seem to recall another dubious encounter with tandoori chicken or Indian food, involved with a late drive from Columbia to Charleston...

JB said...

Yeah, that one will find its way here sooner or later. I thought we had enough incontinence for one day.