Carl Mays: Again, it’s a matter of perspectives

Jun. 20, 2013 @ 11:06 PM

According to reference resources, “chile” is the Spanish spelling of the food; “chili” is the Americanized spelling.

According to the popular Wikipedia Web site, “Chili peppers are botanically fruits, but are generally considered in culinary contexts to be vegetables.” Whether spelled chile or chili, and whether considered vegetable or fruit, green chili is the hottest thing I have ever put in my mouth.

Back in the 1970s, my family and I spent several summers traveling from Gatlinburg to Ridgecrest Conference Center near Black Mountain, N.C., and to Glorieta Conference Center near Santa Fe, N.M. I spent much of each summer speaking to teenagers at conferences sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention.

My wife Jean taught break-out sessions and our son Carl II attended classes for younger kids. Averaging about 3,500 attendees per event, we had some very rewarding – and tiring – experiences.

One summer in particular was especially rewarding – and especially tiring. The schedule had us driving from Gatlinburg and staying over in my hometown of Humboldt (Tenn.), Sallisaw (Okla.), and Amarillo (Texas), before going on to Glorieta. After two weeks at the conference center, we traveled back via a more northern route, staying over in Manitou Springs (Colo.), Salina (Kan.), St. Loui and on to Clinton/Oaktown (Ky.), where Jean was reared, before returning to Gatlinburg.

We spent a week in Gatlinburg before making the short trip of about 100 miles to Ridgecrest – extremely short compared to the western round trip of about 2,800 miles! After staying at Ridgecrest two weeks, we went back to Gatlinburg for a week prior to making a return western trip, and going through the same routine at Glorieta and Ridgecrest again.

Needless to say, we accepted this double-dip schedule only one time. We continued to participate in the summer conferences, but with lighter schedules.

But what does this have to do with chili? Well, it was on the first leg of that double-dip summer that we stopped to eat in Four Corners, N.M. Never before had I seen “green chili” on a menu and, of course, had never tried it. Since I’ve always enjoyed good red chili, I asked our waitress about the green. She said it was delicious, that she liked it better than red.

I then asked, “Is it hot?” She replied, “No, not really. I don’t think so.” I ordered the green New Mexico chili.

The first bite was tangy. I sipped some of my soft drink. I ventured another bite. The bite bit. I gulped more drink. My eyes began to water. I drank the rest of my soft drink and started on my water.

I finished the water as the waitress approached. I managed to gasp, “I thought you said this wasn’t hot.” With sort of a perplexed look and shoulder shrug, she said, “Well, it’s not to me. I grew up here and I’ve always eaten it.”

I asked for more water, but the more I drank the hotter my mouth became. That’s when she advised me to put sugar on the back of my tongue. Eventually, the extreme fire inside my mouth subsided. She exchanged my green chili for a hamburger, regular potato chips (not barbecue or onion chips or anything like that), brought me another soft drink and more water, but told me sugar works best for a burning mouth.

Along with the sugar lesson, I took away two other lessons that day: (1) don’t eat New Mexican green chili – or any green chili; and (2) when dealing with people, always consider where they are coming from and what their backgrounds and perspectives might be.

— © 2013 by Carl Mays, speaker and author whose mentoring site,, is based on his book and program, “A Strategy For Winning.” E-mail to, call 436-7478 or visit