Lunch on the day had been a leftover pot of red beans. It was hanging around from an earlier midweek meal and looking forlorn as my belly contemplated getting a sandwich for something to eat whilst errand-running. Two things changed my mind: I was famished (in spite of the chorizo omelet that was breakfast) and the only currency in my wallet was nostalgia for the bills that got away. An easy equation to solve by heating up the beans and setting to.
Ah, red beans. Of the many delicious dishes to come out of New Orleans, red beans is one for which my imagination fell hard. With the exception of gumbo, when I hanker for things Cajun or Creole, red beans is the dish of choice. There is no recipe for it yet which did not hold some attraction for this belly.
The attraction is not always mutual though. There is no real malice in a good pot of red beans but the aftereffects on this eater often put him in mind of a spat with one's beloved. Maybe the belly is just older and crankier, I don't know. But this batch of red beans brought the pain after lunch. The fire crept up on me as I was driving to a local Asian market (an earlier visit to which was chronicled here) to pick up some ingredients for the night's dinner.
Upon arriving at the market, things became complicated. Fire in the chest, shopping on my mind, and damned if I wasn't getting hungry in the midst of it all. Then I walked through the door to fall victim to the usual ecstatic discombobulation of All The Things. I did myself no favors by visiting sections previously unexplored, including a Middle Eastern section, the seafood counter (Oh.my.god. Story for another time.) and the meat counter. Focus was slipping fast and I had nothing in the basket yet.
Strolling the refrigerated cases brought me to the kimchi. The jars of kimchi. The BIG jars of kimchi. And not just cabbage. There was radish and cucumber kimchi. Plus, some kimchi new to me that was pickled fish and shellfish. The belly growled as it settled upon the snack it so desperately seemed to want.
I bought a big jar of kimchi. Perfect for that impulse buy mingled with a disregard for heartburn.
Discipline of a sort reemerged as Japanese noodles and a bottle of chili oil ended up in my haul of swag. No sesame seeds or sesame oil yet even though those items had been the impetus for the visit. The dull burn in my chest added its own urgency to the situation. Oil and seeds were swiftly tracked down to wrap things up. Arriving home to settle this matter of the imperative of the belly. Still a fire in my gullet and a growling in my tummy. Heartburn versus appetite. I was hungry, so I ate.
Some may think that kimchi with chilis would not be the most efficacious balm to apply to a case of heartburn. In the abstract, I would agree with them. That seeming contraindication looped around my brain while the kimchi worked its way to my stomach. Sips of fresh-brewed jasmine tea served as lubricant between swallows of pungent cabbage. Any anticipated squabbling between the kimchi and my aggravated esophagus failed to materialize, at least not while I was standing in the kitchen.
I returned to my workstation, graced by a short series of garlic-flavored hiccups. A sated belly makes for a pleasant working experience even at the risk of an odoriferous workspace. A few minutes into my late afternoon labors it sank in that my chest was no longer burning. A faint prickle, but no burn. I no longer felt the need to reach for the cherry-flavored chalk that seems to never be far out of hand these days. Maybe it was the tea, maybe it was the kimchi that helped knock back the pain. It is an experiment worth repeating, because I'll take garlic burps over chewing chalk any day of the week.