It’s no wonder I’m such a foodie. Aside from my family’s appreciation of good food, my first job, at the ripe old age of 15, was at The Fresh Market. Then in college I had the privilege to work at a greasy spoon/juke joint.

This place was a bona fide honky-tonk, complete with pool tables, a juke box, a short-order kitchen and occasional wafts of marijuana coming through the back door. If you were working on a slow night, you were literally the barmaid, the bouncer, the waitress and the cook. With no formal training in any of these – other than what one picks up being raised in the country – it was sink or swim. Fortunately none of the clientele was too picky so long as you wore a friendly smile and had the mental capacity to remember if they wanted Bud or Bud Light and you could usually manage cooking and slinging drinks by yourself on weeknights.

The kitchen was equipped about the same as a Waffle House but u-shaped instead of galley-style. I’d had a few nights shadowing one of the other girls to know my way around the kitchen a bit and then been thrown into it feet first.

I loved it! I could set up the prep stations any damn way I wanted to, put my own spin on anything I was cooking and go off-menu if someone wanted something special. I had a grill, two fry baskets, commercial grade equipment and total creative license. This would be the equivalent to some of playing football with your buds in the Super Dome or having Saks to yourself for an evening.

After several months I’d gotten to know the regulars and had a handle on the whole barmaid/bouncer/waitress/cook thing. For the most part, I liked everyone and they liked me… for the most part. The exception being this wannabe biker dude that stood all of about 5’ 2”, wore a leather Harley vest (though he appeared not to even own a motorcycle). He was so skinny and leathery that if he stuck his tongue out he would have looked like a brown zipper. He had a vile way about him and the way he looked at us gals gave me the willies. He was the Southern personification of a Napoleon Complex. I won’t tell you his name but his initials were BM (pahahahahahahaaaaaaa).

He was good and pissed off with me one night after I’d told him if I heard him use the “c” word again I was putting him out when he ordered a dozen wings. To illustrate his limited repartee and dislike for me, he began asking me over and over and over if I heard him say he wanted hot wings; not mild or teriyaki but “HOT!” As I took other orders he would interrupt me with the query. He yelled it through the kitchen opening as I was getting his meal ready. On and on this went.

How stupid do you have to be to harass the person cooking your food? I mean, really? About the 37th time he bellowed his specifications to me I’d had the chicken pieces thoroughly coated with straight Tabasco sauce. Thinking this might not deliver the punch I was aiming for I coated the wings with enough cayenne pepper to choke Lucifer. This, however, gave them a matte finish and fearing it might give me away, I decided to dip them in the silky hot wing sauce we served our non-asshole clientele.

Once I had his plate assembled I waited for him to finish off the last of his beer (wa-ahah) then trotted out of the kitchen and set sir’s dinner in front of him. He gives me his best “are you a good witch or a bad witch?” look and says, “Are they HOT?”

I didn’t see what happened next because I nodded and walked away. I heard it though. There was a cut-off choking sound, and then a gurgling followed. If you’ve ever heard a game rooster fight to his death, with his lungs punctured and drowning on the blood pouring from his eye sockets, this was the exact sound (and hasn’t everybody heard the sounds of a gamecock death fight??) It sounded like he was trying to do some more hollering at me but was cut short by very mucousy explosion of sneezing and coughing. Then I heard the door slam and all of his buds’ bellowing laughter.

They say revenge is a dish best served cold but it looked pretty good blistering hot dripping in snot and Tabasco too.

Now, we did make a pretty mean hot wing sauce… one that I still use on occasion. This is the non-lethal variety however, if you ever need to get rid of your own BM, just give me a shout and I’ll walk you through my special recipe.

Wicked Good Hot Wing Sauce

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup hot sauce*
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 stick butter

Add all ingredients to a sauce pan and cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. In a large bowl pour about a ½ cup sauce, add cooked chicken wing sections (10-12 pieces) and toss to coat chicken.

*such as Texas Pete or Frank’s

Mandy Richburg Rivers

Mandy Richburg Rivers

Mandy lives in Lexington, South Carolina, is a contributing writer for the Food & Drink section and is currently working on her first cookbook. Mandy is an award winning recipe writer and judges regional cook-offs and other culinary contests.

“I'm just a gal that likes food. Of course I like to eat, but what I've discovered about myself over the years is that there are more ways for me to enjoy food than just eating it. I like to shop for it, read about it, cook it, entertain with it and write about it. And when it's really good, sometimes I'm tempted to throw it on the floor and roll in it."