Mouth on Fire


Today I returned to Kool Korners for a second go at their Cuban sandwich.

Precedeing my arrival, heaven lost its bladder control and released its liquid fury upon us. Literally buckets upon buckets. After it cleared up, I stepped out of my car into a puddle. Then there was a Working Girl moment: a truck drove by and sprayed water up all over my clothes. I sang Carly Simon’s “Let The River Run” and I was ok.

But this is all besides the point.

The point is this. I purchased my “classic cuban” and returned to my car where people eat their Cubans when they go to Kool Korners. I took a bite and it really hit the spot.

“This really hits the spot!” I said to the radio.

“Do you know the way to San Jose?” it responded.

A few more bites in and I felt like a retraction was in order. My first time there I asked: “Is this really a classic Cuban?” I said that because of the condiments: the mustard and mayo, the lettuce, tomato and onion. Really, I was comparing it to the cuban sandwiches I ate all summer in L.A.

But that’s not really fair to the Kool Korner’s Cuban. The Kool Korner’s Cuban should be judged on its own terms. And here, sitting in my rain-soaked car noshing away, I was ready to admit the Kool Korner’s Cuban into the fold of my favorite Atlanta bites.

And then thunder struck.

No not weather-related thunder. This was thunder in my mouth.

Now the Kool Korners Cuban has jalapenos chopped up and spread throughout the sandwich. Somehow, in the journey over from sandwich shop to car, the jalapenos must have shifted. The first half of the sandwich had equally distributed jalapenos. The second half, though, was conspicuously jalapenoless until the bite that will send my mouth into therapy for years.

How to describe it?

I think interpretive dance works best.

Imagine me on a stage in a tutu. Imagine soft blue light and strains of Tchaicovsky in the background. Then imagine my head exploding and the rest of my body erupting in flame. The curtains catch fire, as does the audience, and the smell of burning hair and flesh fills the air.

That is what happened in my car today. A graphic lit up on the dashboard of a tongue in flames. I desperately grabbed for anything to chew to kill the pain. I sucked down some iced tea. Didn’t do it. I tore bread off from the top of the sandwich. Didn’t do it. I licked the car seat. Didn’t do it. Plus it made my mouth fluffy in addition to the excruciating heat.

Have you ever been hit in the nose? You know that strange sensation you get in your sinus cavities? That’s what this was like. And it was awful.

Yet, in a way—and I know this sounds strange—it was rather invigorating. Like jumping into the ocean in the middle of winter or making out with Estelle Getty. Sure it’s painful and tedious when you’re going through it, but when you come out the other end you feel refreshed.

“I feel refreshed!” I told the radio.

“Oh Mandy,” it replied, “Well you came and you gave without takin'”

Indeed, Mandy. Indeed.

1 thought on “Mouth on Fire”

  1. Wow…who knew on a Thursday morning I would have thoughts of Working Girl in my head. Thanks to you, Adam! I thought I was the only dork that loved that movie. I remember my mom taking me to see it at the theater and after the show she went straight to the record store to buy the single of you guessed it…Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run” he he. Brings back so many memories.

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