This article first appeared on the now-defunct ZUG.com. The original was a five-part article. It has been edited to appear on one page.
Chicken Wings, the Eurekan combination of “How can we possibly sell these leftover scraps?” with “Wait a minute, people drink!” We can picture the naked poultry farmer running down the street even now, screaming about saucy chickens as he flaps in the breeze. And after completing his sentence he invented chicken wings!
There’s an amazing density of chicken wingeries in one street near my flat. It’s like the city planners were watching UFC while approving businesses (which explains why at also has shops selling nut-shields and martial arts movies). One block contains an impossible five wing joints, somehow sharing the cities bird-bit-budget between them until one finally closed – and another opened to replace it immediately.
The implications are terrifying – are Wings, like Mass and Energy, a fundamental conserved quantity of existence? Is all the universe’s “missing matter” eaten with Bud on Super Bowl Sunday? And far more importantly – how exactly are they reappearing after we digest them?
This demanded immediate and dangerous scientific experimentation. The Large Hadron Collider probes the laws of the universe by accelerating subatomic particles to incredibly high energies – Professor Wallybob and I decided to do the same with our stomachs! We’ll drive our digestive tracts to unexplored energy intensities by visiting all the wingsteraunts in one go, ordering the hottest “Suicide” wings at each. We will discover many things.
Not all of them good.
Location: Each wingstallation will be surveyed before sacrificing chickens for us, in a far more convenient (and flavorful) form than rituals historically used to learn about reality by animal sacrifice.
Wingtensity: Wingtensity is a brand-new physical value, so we’re rating it as scientifically as possible.
I steeled my nerves, steadied my stomach, and kissed my ass goodbye (not the most pleasant experience, but I suspected I wouldn’t want to be within two miles of the thing the next morning). Wallybob pre-emptively cursed me, ZUG, and you for enabling us both. We began.
PART 2: UNLEASH THE CHICKEN
Location: “YOU KNOW WHEN THEY’LL FUSKING BACK OFF!”*
Our expedition was off to a flying start, sitting at the bar beside a psychopath announcing to anyone who cared (population: zero) and anyone who couldn’t get away (population: us) that the world wasn’t how he thought it should be. But he clearly thought it should by a randomly read thesaurus using curses instead of punctuation. You know you’re in good company when your fellow drinker has to promise the barman to leave after this last drink. At 7 pm.
Explaining our mission to the barman, he explained they only went up to “Hot” but would whip up some super-special “Suicide” wings which weren’t on the regular menu. Already we’re pushing the boundaries of human knowledge! (NOTE: the application of “knowledge”, or indeed “human”, to our fellow Pump-ers is overgenerous)
*Yes, I edited that, but this was not a man to benefit from accurate transcription.
These wings tasted like Political Correctness.
They did their best, grinding up chilli flakes and sprinkling them over the long-dead flesh in the hope of summoning heat, but it’s a fact: regular bars aren’t allowed to serve heat. Because the average North American can be burned by a picture of a candle, thinks “Spice” is a pay-per-view porn channel, and in North America you’re not allowed to do anything anyone might ever complain about. That’s why hot is the new mild – because you can warn people all you want, they’ll still whine when they overestimate their own non-existent capacity.
These were the hottest wings on the menu, up-hotted by specific request, but a lifetime of living in a bar kitchen had robbed the cook of even the dream of what heat might be. Straight out of the fryer these wings would be invisible on infrared. You could eat them on the surface of the sun and be refreshed by the cool taste.
Location: We were disgusted with human society and mass market mild wings – we wanted nothing but a machine that made wings happen!
Unfortunately that sign’s about as far as the good mood lasted. Inside the place wasn’t a Wing Machine: it was a factory where bits of birds no-one else wanted went to die a second time. More depressing than an unattended clown’s funeral where even the priest doesn’t bother to turn up, it’s impossible to get the full misery of this place into words. But “fully one-quarter of the seating is around an overflowing, stinking bin” helps set the mood.
Wingtensity: The wings were exactly as appetizing as an autopsy – if you still wanted to eat after seeing them there’s something wrong with you. Their hottest was Cajun with a “Suicide” sauce, which turned out to be more a “Mildly depressed eating a whole liter of Ben & Jerry’s in front of Oprah” sauce. You’d find hotter things in an organ bank.
This didn’t stop them from viciously attacking both the truth and our mucous membranes in an incredible chemical assault – the sauce reeked of artificial additives, possibly bleach, which warned our tastebuds the same way the whistle of Agent Orange crop-sprayers warn woodland animals.
It didn’t taste as bad as it smelled. But it couldn’t without the chef being the guy from Saw with a screwdriver inside our mouths. Walking to the next location we began to despair. Was there no flavor in this world? Would this article be a bust? Would we never know intensity, heat, or pain?
Part 3: Be Careful What You Wish For
For accurate foreboding, please imagine the last sentence of the previous part spoken in front of a malicious genie, who brought an orchestra heavy on screeching violions and shark-bass.
Wing Shop 366
Location: It might look normal, but Wing Shop 366 is more impossible than a tattoo parlor in the Vatican — it offers full seating despite lacking a liquor license, under the impression that people want to eat wings without beer.
We saw how well their revolutionary “eating wings sober” strategy was working, by the bustling crowds in the dingy formican nightmare of their anti-enjoyment zone…
…and the increasingly desperate hand-written special offers plastered on every available surface.
Wingtensity: Prometheus could escape his ancient chains, breaking loose from the mountain where the gods decreed an eagle should fly down and rip his liver out every day for eternity, and say that these are the worst wings he’s ever experienced.
The “Devil Sauce” wings lived up to their name, and not in a good way — they were exactly as pleasant as inviting the Lord of Flies into your mouth. Before you bite in, the chemical stench stabs into your sinuses like needles; “flavor” is an utterly inappropriate word to apply to this. It’d be like talking about the “flavor” of the Exxon Valdez ramming Three Mile Island. These are the ultimate exemplars of horrible chemical butchery, so appallingly artificial they make the Terminator look like a free-range chicken. There are bacteria growing on the Chernobyl reactor’s cracked core which would taste more natural (and likely be better for you). The cooks somehow wrapped a layer of thickened bleach around battered packing peanuts, convincing the unholy assortment to cling to burned bones. Probably by threatening to “cook” them some more.
St. Louis Wings
Location: We interrupt this broadcast to bring you breaking news, as in “our stomachs are breaking.” The Devil Sauce was catalyzing an unholy reaction in our digestive systems. Unsurprising, since that stuff could turn an angel’s tears into unicorn poison. We soldiered on, despite gaseous rumblings exactly like steam hissing from the pipes of a plutonium power plant — small signs, but indicative of incredibly bad times to come.
In news NOT related to imminent internal explosions, St. Louis Wings is a popular sports bar/wing franchise.
Wingtensity: We explained our mission to the barmaid and demanded she bring us her hottest wings. She looked at us like we were demented, and delivered a bowl of “Hotter than Hell.”
We were delighted to see that they came with big chunky fries, because about thirty wings wasn’t really bringing us close enough to exploding yet. The wings themselves were delicious, softly spicy and full of meat, but we’d probably have praised the crunchy, filling texture of granite after Wing Machine 366.
Eating “actual food” helped, but it was still pouring more matter and entirely new types of spice into an increasingly unstable spice reactor that was currently:
a) hissing and bubbling like a witch’s cauldron
b) inside our guts
But we were confident — there was only one wing shop left. We’d made it this far. Everything would be fine.
Part 4: Famous Last Words
Location: Puck’N Wings has over fifty flavors of wing, not one of which could distract us from the exploding knife factories installed underneath our lungs. Roiling, ugly infernos shoving red hot shards out into our other organs — they’d become bored with the stomach (which now felt like the third floor of Nakatomi Plaza), and decided to be the first chicken wings to be tasted in the spleen.
Eventually we concluded we had discovered the combination of chemicals which gives the taste of being stabbed. We don’t expect to make much money from it, though Gillette has expressed tentative interest in a shaving scent.
Wingtensity: We informed the staff of our mission and were served a bowl of “Puck’N INSANE” — which is actually one step above “Suicide” in the Puck’N Pantheon. The menu describes it as being “slammed into a wall by an armored hockey player,” IN BOLD RED TEXT.
They were gorgeous — sour, salty, spicy, stuffed with flavor and flaming with “fighting spirit” (Wallybob’s description of the fact that they could strip paint off your nostrils from a foot away). This didn’t cancel the fact that every wing was harder than Tony Jaa’s knuckles — each chunk scorched our insides as it slid past patches of throat that had already been burned away, dumping gallons of flavorful napalm into the volcanoes improbably installed in our intestines.
But we’d made it. It was over. After hours of pain and struggle, we were done.
We’d risked it all and won, we’d faced five levels of pain in a row and defeated the final boss. Which is why, in true videogame fashion, that’s when the REAL final boss was revealed — and us without a save point, and down to our last two stomachs.
The True Final Challenge: Duff’s
Puck’N’s manager had been alerted to our quest,because bar managers are always alerted to potential problems, and interrupted our celebratory high-fives to tell us we hadn’t tried the hottest wings yet. Even though we’d never done anything to him. We would have to go to “Duff’s” to face the true challenge. We were dying, felt like we’d jumped on a grenade in Dune’s Spice War, and had never been more relieved than one minute previously when we’d thought we were done.
And if you think we didn’t go, you forgot who you’re reading about.
After a long walk (as good an idea for our stomachs as a minefield is for a football game), we approached Duff’s, aka “The Final Boss For Stomachs.” Imagine horror movies were instead based on spicy food — our approach was the first half hour of every one put together. The instant we entered we saw this:
It’s not clear if that’s how many wings they ate, or how many people they killed when they exploded. The menu doesn’t just include hot items — it’s only hot items, rated in Scovilles (an actual scientific measure of hotness).
You’ll notice they don’t even have a wimpy “Suicide” – instead it’s “KILLING EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD.” It’s rated at 850,000 Scovilles, which is as hot as something can be before it’s legally termed as Mace. Even the staff are clearly labelled to warn you against doing exactly what we had to.
These wings don’t have wingtensity, they ARE wingtensity – in the same way Rocky is the Eye of the Tiger and that is no moon (especially the bit where it detonates in a massive fireball).
They’re incredible. It’s like the surface of the sun was turned into a flavor, and it’s a really good one – an incredibly intense spice without a single speck of synthetic, so strong it can set off survival endorphins in the eater. You inexplicably want more the instant you finish one, like ordering another mug of magma because the first one didn’t kill you. It’s also the first place you actually need the entire stack of napkins every wing joint serves you – not just for your fingers, but to wipe away the fluids which start leaking from every orifice, as well as desperately scrubbing sauce away from any exposed skin it drops onto.
Our quest was complete – we’d moved past pure heat and into an almost religious dizziness of suicide sauce. We felt terrific, though only because “terrific” used to mean “inspires terror.” Because we’d only got halfway through the “pass all these wings through our bodies” process.
PART 5: AFTERMATH
Walking home wasn’t locomotion — it was jumping up and down in an armory after an earthquake. Six sorts of suicide were compressing and reacting in ways banned by the Geneva convention and several laws of physics, doing things to each other the 2 girls 1 cup people would balk at. The Toronto winter was minus twelve with windchill, freezing every inch of skin, and our average temperature was still that of a Saharan disco dancer.
It felt like I was pregnant with the sun’s child, the spices compounding with each other and stomach acid, where “stomach acid” was to this cocktail what “an olive” is to the martini. This was going to hurt. On the way home I stopped at Wallybob’s for the best glass of milk I’d ever had.
Things got even worse — the fusion reaction died, then began to compact into a neutron star, an awful black core so dense it twisted and tortured space itself (“space” is here portrayed by “my bowels”). I went to bed like a nuclear safety officer who’s just found out Homer Simpson is real, waiting for the pain the next day would bring.
I didn’t make it that far.
I was up at 4, 4:30, 5, repeat until several steps after you wish you were dead.
If I could truly describe the agony I felt*, I’d get an Oprah appearance. Hell, I’d get an Oscar, and a Nobel prize just for surviving. My entire abdomen was a hot air balloon over-inflated by a jammed compressor — desperately hissing and venting to avoid explosion, but with the constant pressure that something would give soon.
*and claim it was due to drugs/babies/vaccinations/all three
My entire digestive tract was the site of a major nuclear accident — poisoned and full of hideously burning things that you want to throw away as quickly as possible but just can’t; each piece needed desperately hard work and painful effort to move even a bit (and then you wish it hadn’t). It was like sitting on a red-hot rotating sword.
There were actually two lines of agony, as toxin-laden piss backed up toward by bladder. My inflated intestines were actually squeezing my urethra — I could not pee, and it burned. I’d driven my body to break in ways it hadn’t ever anticipated, and it’s spent millions of years being tested by every idiot ever born.
I finally forced enough gas to unleash a stream of urine which could have dissolved a tank, and let me say that I’d STILL rather have climbed Mount Doom while piggy-backing a burning leper, before spending the next two hours raising the Toronto sewer systems’ average temperature by several degrees.
So what did we learn? We learned that truly hot wings do exist, but they’re in the minority. We learned that suicide wings are the revenge of bar fry cooks on the world that put them there. And we learned that governments don’t need to spend millions disposing of nuclear waste: drunken men will pay to eat it.