Recently I went to a trendy burger joint with a bunch of buddies for lunch. There were about six of us including two East Asians, a half Asian, a Hispanic guy, a Hispanic guy, and a token white guy. Looking at the menu, I decided I wanted to be daring and try the burger with the habanero pepper mayo. For those who don’t know, the habanero pepper is one of the spiciest on the planet, being thousands of times hotter than the jalapeno. But, I really wanted to try it. When the waitress came to take our orders, I was still unsure if I wanted to try the burger or not because it was after all habanero! But, I was thinking perhaps they took the flavor of habanero and infused it into this mayo to make it tasty but still edible.
So, it was my turn as she went around the table. She was a young Caucasian waitress in her early 20s.
“So, what do you want”, she asked.
“I want the burger with the habanero mayo on it. But, I’m a little worried. How spicy is the habanero mayo?” Her response was really unexpected, and very strange.
“You’re Asian, I’m sure you can handle it”, she said!
What??! I didn’t know what to say really, and even the non-Asians at the table were surprised. The weird thing was that I wasn’t angry, just confused. It’s not really a negative comment, you know? But, it’s not a true statement either since not all Asian countries eat super spicy food. Lots of Japanese food is very mild and sensitive, and they don’t eat many extremely hot foods. I would say most Chinese food is not spicy either. Perhaps she thought I was Korean? Or Thai? In any case, it was a dumb thing to say, and if I wanted to, I could’ve gotten her in big trouble with her managers by complaining.
But, I didn’t really care. I ate the burger with the habanero sauce, which was quite mild actually. It just had a little heat in the back, and that distinct habanero flavor. It was an average burger. My friends made more of a big deal about it than I did. “I can’t believe she said that”, exclaimed my Filipino friend. He repeated the story a few times later. It’s hard to believe some people create these mental stereotypes in their heads and actually believe them. But, it can happen to any of us, so you gotta stay on your guard, and keep your thoughts sharp.
Anything like this happened to you, SAM?