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we have a menu item at molly’s that we get a lot of attention for.  when we sold our east-side location to a buyer in july ’07, the circumstances were a little hazy to all but the the owners.  it looked to everyone else as if we hadn’t been losing money at the east-side location at all but we were selling it anyway.  and it looked as if the next owners of the joint were gonna change the name to calypso (ugh) and serve a near carbon copy of the menu.  pretty confusing to me at the time, but what i clearly recollect is  hearing that there was a stern clause in the agreement of the sale stating that under *no fucking circumstances* could calypso sell molly’s trademark product, THE GREAT BALLS OF FIRE.

molly’s has been around for almost fifteen years in sw portland, and the balls of fire were one of the original menu items molly’s had touted when it opened.  their original creator disappeared from molly’s shortly after the place opened, but a very campy photo of him, posed with dumb hair, a plate of GBOF and and some dangerous-looking steamy dry ice still remains.  the first head chef at molly’s (this is a different guy) made some alterations to the recipe along the way, but he also didn’t last long at the restaurant, despite being a co-founder and despite being very close with the main owner.  this dude lost his job after being found passed out in the attic at molly’s, stone cold drunk and rubbing a bottle, first thing in the morning.  he pulled his shit together and years later returned to author some pretty inspired menu additions. he was an inveterate snob and had the face of a goddamn rodent, but he loved the hell outta food and dreamed up some GRUB.  his adjustment to the balls of fire may have been what truly finished them off.  there’s also a hot sauce in portland (unrelated to molly’s) that has reached fucking legendary status, and it’s dude’s creation, called secret aardvark.  dude is now dead.

anyway, the balls of fire are a food challenge.  they’re five habanero fritters with a modest dash of habanero sauce, and they’re spicy as hell.  we don’t really advertise, but still people have been coming to molly’s to test themselves against the balls of fire for a long-ass time.  their reputation is firm.  we get people for this day-in and day-out.  as long as a customer eats all five balls of fire and ALL THE SAUCE that comes with it (they’re equally spicy, the balls and the sauce, ’cause the sauce is mostly just puree of habanero), they get their photo taken and they go on a wall we set aside for winners.  we’ve even been on TV for this challenge.

i was in a fucking bad mood today, though.  picked up a shift that i didn’t really want, giving up one of my biggest drawing days in the hope of making some good money, and it was totally dead all night.  and people were being sour.  one of my last tables of the night was a table of four, two dudes and two ladies, and the dudes were there to do the challenge.  this scenario happens a lot:  two or more dudes will show up late at night and they won’t want food or anything to drink.  they’ll just wanna do the challenge.  often the ladies don’t come.  all this is fine with me.  i’ll just get them started and offer my sympathy warning.

“you guys, the outcome of this is gonna be a lot better if you’re not running on an empty stomach.  so if you haven’t eaten, just get a little something and then do the balls of fire afterward.”  i’ve seen pretty much every possible outcome the balls of fire can have, except death.  i’ve seen fire trucks, ambulances, vomit, passing out, violence, blindness–all that shit.  if a dude finishes–and most don’t–8 times out of ten he’s gonna visit the bathroom for 5-15 minutes and come back looking like he won’t sleep for a few days and being totally unable to enjoy a dinner.  if i’m too busy, too pissed or totally uninterested, i’ll skip the warning and let people crash out.  but normally i’m nice about this.  and right now, our habaneros are extraordinarily hot, the worst we’ve had them.  they’re fucking brutal.  chef says they’re in season now and that we have a better vendor or whatever. they’re scary.

tonight i was nice.  gave these dudes my sympathy warning.  they cut me off abruptly.  “i’m FINE, dude.  just bring ’em out.”  they both pretty much said the same thing, dismissing me without even giving me eye contact (another MAJOR FUCKING PET-PEEVE).  i was irate.

i hate rudeness.  i go out of my way to put on a good attitude if i don’t have it already, and i keep things fun.  tonight i wasn’t feeling nice, but i’d still tried to hook these guys up with the warning.

took their order to the kitchen (the girls weren’t eating) and decided that since these guys didn’t need any help, we wouldn’t make it easy on them.  i cooked up ten FAT balls of fire myself and put a goddamn POOL of the hotsauce on their plates.  the balls were swimming in that shit.  even the cook, who normally loves sabotaging the innocent, gave me a look.  “they wanted extra,” i said.  brought their shit out and before i could set their plates down, the girls asked, as if on cue, “so how much sauce comes on them usually?”

kept a deadpan look on my face and, as i set the plates down, said, very plainly, “cook’s discretion.”

dudes both got close to finishing the balls, but they barely made a dent in that sauce.  had to apologize to the busboy later for the mess in the bathroom.


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