This past Sunday my wife was working the concession stand at the ball park that our son plays baseball in. My son and daughter went swimming in the morning, and come lunch time ,we decided we would go to the ball park to visit, and to eat some lunch. Now, it needs to be known, my son plays at the same ball park that I did has a kid. I am very familiar with every field, I know where all the landmarks are, and I am very familiar with the food. This was the food I grew up eating after my baseball games. I had it all too. I tried pretty much everything they had to offer.
When we went the other day, some of the options have changed, and the food is of better quality, but for the most part, it brought me back to my childhood, especially when my son ordered a slushie. Slushies, for those that don't know, are drinkable snow cones. They are sugary, sweet and delicious. But, the one thing they still had on the menu, the item I ordered that day because I hadn't had one in almost 2 decades, was the "Pepper Belly".
Now, I'm sure that every little league park in America has their own version of this, and they call it by their own particular name, but here in West County, in Saint Louis, a "Pepper Belly" is a bag of plain Fritos covered in chili, cheese and jalapenos. I know it may sound disgusting, but it wonderful, and since Sunday I don't count carbs, it was well worth the purchase. When I was a kid they used to serve it in a Frito bag, which was visually cool, but also super messy. Now, they serve it in a paper bowl, which is much better. And, not to worry, you can recycle the bowl. So, you can eat garbage and save the Earth. Win
When I was a kid, I could house about 3-4 after every game. I used to get them without the jalapenos, which is how my son ate it on Sunday, and I would crush that Pepper Belly in less than a minute. So, when we ordered them on Sunday, I assumed that I would eat, at the very least, 2 of them. This time, I got the jalapenos, and added the ones from my son's, and was in high heaven. This Pepper Belly brought me back in all the right ways. The crunchiness of the Fritos mixed with the chili, which has beans, and that I usually don't like, but this almost needs it, was phenomenal. Then add on the cheese, that they sprinkle on and it melts as you are eating it and the jalapenos, this Pepper Belly is a culinary delight. I loved every single bite of it that I had. I was scraping the chili and cheese off the bottom of the bowl. I would try and get a little bit of every single item in every bite. I would take the Fritos that were not covered with chili, and dip them in the run off chili. The added jalapenos were amazing. It was the perfect amount of spice. I loved it. My son also loved his version, the jalapeno less one, as well. He kept taking bites, looking at me and saying, "you were right dad, this is really good. I may want seconds". It was awesome. Even my daughter enjoyed her few bites, and she is a very picky eater.
Unfortunately the Pepper Belly does have its down side, much like my naked chicken chalupa scenario. As I said, while eating the Pepper Belly, and enjoying every second of it, about 2-3 hours later, my stomach was not happy with me. It was worse than the naked chicken chalupa. It took almost 2 full days to get fully out of my system, and it hurt when getting it out of my system. I was in physical pain. I don't know if it was an ulcer, a bad batch(it was not a bad batch), or if I am just getting older, and my stomach cannot handle food like this, like it could before. It definitely wasn't an ulcer, I am fine today. As I already said, it was not a bad batch because my son was fine and my wife had one too, and she was okay. So, I think it is me getting older. I walked out of the shower on Sunday night and told my wife this realization. I told her that maybe I cannot handle spicy food as well as I once could. I then shivered because that is the oldest sounding thing I think I have ever said. Spicy food has never really given me a problem, until I turned 35. So, I'm pretty sure the chili and the added jalapenos were what put me under. It was heart breaking for me. But, just like with the naked chicken chalupa, I will never stop eating Pepper Bellies.
I am working the concession stand this coming weekend, and you better damn well believe I will have another one, maybe 2, and just deal with the consequences afterwards. Pepper Belly's are a culinary delight. I love them, and I do not mind the aftermath. Seriously people, if you haven't had one of these, or something similar, go get one, or even better, make one. They are great. Despite the issues, I am so happy that Pepper Belly's are back in my life. What a delight.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing and the other host of the X Millennial Man Podcast. He needs to get down to Texas and have a frito pie, or better yet come on out to Cincinnati and get a walking taco. I think he would find some comforting similarities.
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