Art Barrett figures that if he can just get Dan Quayle into his kitchen, he can settle the whole flap over whether the GOP nominee for vice president can take the heat.
Barrett, you see, possesses the ultimate macho test--his carne adovada, a marinated pork dish that could just as easily be used to make firebreaks for the Forest Service. This stuff is so hot . . . well, it's so hot you'd need Johnny Carson or Jim Murray to finish the sentence.
Believed to have originally been concocted by the natives of New Mexico to preserve meat in the blistering desert, the sauce/marinade for the dish is a simple combination of water and lots of dried and crushed chili peppers (the kind you need rubber gloves to handle).
"These people must have had a great deal of time on their hands," says Barrett, "because not only does the meat require a good 24 hours to marinate, but you need time to eat it after it's cooked. You don't just gulp this stuff down--not and live, anyway. You eat it slowly, allowing a few minutes between bites.
"You have to work at it, but the rewards are tremendous."
Rewards? Yes, rewards, insists Barrett, "like sharing in the experiences of an ancient culture." There are others, he says, but he can't put his finger on them at the moment.
One friend of his claims to be designing a bumper sticker based on the "I Survived Ortega Highway" one you see around the county, substituting "Art Barrett's Food" for the name of the road.
But Barrett, who owns Barrett Marketing Communications and specializes in financial and real estate public relations, takes his cooking so seriously that he actually travels to New Mexico to buy the proper chili peppers, displaying a cluster, or ristras, of them in the kitchen of his Tustin home.
"They'll spice up just about any dish," he says--a remarkable understatement.
However, he says his cooking is not confined to Southwestern food. He also does "a pretty good job on Italian dishes," which he will rustle up for guests who might prefer a blander diet.
Barrett, 39, is a latecomer to the kitchen arts, depending first on "my mother, then a wife and then, after the divorce, restaurants until I discovered that the only way you get what you really like is to cook it yourself."
ART BARRETT'S CARNE ADOVADA Ingredients
8 ounces dried chili peppers, coarsely crumbled
3 cups water
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds fresh lean pork, cut into 2-inch strips
Oil for browning pork
Crumble chili peppers and dispose of seeds. Heat 1 cup of water and pour over peppers. Let stand 30 minutes. Mix with remaining water and garlic and puree in blender. Brown pork in skillet and arrange in baking pan. Cover with chili sauce and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, turning occasionally. Bake in preheated 300-degree oven for 2 hours. Serve with Spanish rice and beans.