Confession No. 131 — Water? Gasoline? Or dynamite? Well, that all depends.

My real life job as a public relations guy requires me to bite my tongue. Quite often. And it’s not always easy.

Many times, I’ve had to stifle my thoughts and comments when it comes to absurd inquiries from the press and their award-desiring editors. There are plenty of other instances when I must tap my mute button for people in my community who are just … crazy. And then there are the co-workers. I have more than 1,300 of them and let me tell you, there are at least a few who could stand a lesson in white gloves and party manners.

It’s a cliché that’s been around for years, and I’m not sure where it originated. So I’ll credit the man who first said it to me, a school superintendent in northeast Texas.

‘Adam, you’re dealing with a fire. Would you rather put it out with gasoline? Or water?’

Silly me, I usually wanted to use gasoline — the 130-octane airplane stuff. But this guy always managed to bring me around.

‘So, you can make yourself feel better … for the moment,’ he would tell me. ‘But those flames are going to grow to the point that you won’t be able to extinguish them.’

Damn him. He was always right with his ‘high road’ advice. At times I despised this guy for talking me down from the ledge. Still, when you’re right — you’re right. So what happens when I’m right, but the other person is wrong? Like illicit drugs and slavery-combined wrong?

Dear Mr. Holland —

I happen to know that you told such-and-such one thing, but delivered something else entirely. You said so in an email. You’re going to hell.

Secretary Ratched

If I’d had taken the low road, I’d have written her about her medication. I would’ve thrown in some Old Testament verses about women being the lesser vessel — not because I believe it, but because that one tends to push the buttons of about 99.999 percent of the female population. Instead I responded as a nice guy should.

Dear Ms. Menopause —

It costs you nothing to be civil in your communication. I sincerely hope that you do not speak to your co-workers or the students’ parents in the same tone you’ve taken with me. I apologize for not meeting your needs, and will work to rectify the situation immediately.

Kind regards,
Mr. H2O

‘Also, please note that she disgusts me,’ I added. 

Funny thing is, after I called her out on her poor demeanor – then apologized myself – our subsequent communication improved dramatically. It’s the type of water that’s difficult to use, but it works almost every time. On that note, apologies work wonders in almost every situation. (Take note, gentlemen.)

‘Adam, I don’t appreciate you smoking that nasty cigar in my car,’ my wife once said to me. ‘Did you not think I would smell it?’

After denying it for a couple of attempts, I gave in to the truth.

‘You’re right, sweetheart,’ I responded. ‘I wasn’t thinking. What can I do to make it right with you?’

When the heavenly scent of that Honduran handmade left my asthmatic lungs a few days later, my wife actually kissed me.

Unfortunately or otherwise, it doesn’t always end so well when one uses gasoline on a fire — such as the time I told an angry Cub Scout den mother that she needed to go far away – preferably to an organization that would allow her lewd behavior and underhanded tactics. Well, she did… taking about 20 scouts and parents with her.

And there are the dynamite situations, such as the many instances when I marched up to a school on the words of my children and let a teacher know how the cow ate the cabbage. The most recent happened just a couple of years ago.

‘I don’t know why you want this conference, because I’m not changing her grade,’ the teacher announced as she walked into the conference room.

I looked at the principal seated at the end of the conference table and went into my gasoline-fueled diatribe.

‘Please put in your notes that the teacher not only violated policy by not granting me this conference within 30 days of my initial request, but also that she entered the conference in an unprofessional manner. While you’re at it, please note that she is inconsistent in her grading policies and that she has no business being around children.’

As I looked at the principal, the teacher shot me the evil eye and began to grab her belongings to exit the non-conference.

‘Also, please note that she disgusts me,’ I added.

And there I sat … The principal on one side and my shocked wife on the other. The teacher had stormed out. Understandably. My gasoline-pouring had fueled those angry flames higher than we could extinguish.

This was a problem that only dynamite could solve.

Remember the first Iraq war and all of the oil wells in Kuwait that were set ablaze? I recall the pundits predicting years and years of atmospheric poison and black clouds for decades to come. Enter Paul ‘Red’ Adair, a firefighter who was so badass that he was portrayed in a 1968 John Wayne movie. Adair’s secret? Dynamite.

Now, I won’t pretend to know all of the details of his dangerous job, but I do know that dynamite was the bottom line in many of them. Something burning out of control? Get it over with and blow it the hell up.

Or just use water in the first place.

Want to receive notifications of my Confessions, Chronicles and recipes in your email? Just click here. I’d also love for you to join me on Facebook (click the ‘like’ button), Pinterest and Google+. Why not witness some of my Instagram antics too? — Special thanks to Megan E. ‘Toilet Paper’ Hawkins at The Underground Writer for editing this piece. Subscribe to her blog for some lively observations … and plenty of dynamite.

To describe these dishes, I must delve into a little bit of Hollywood.  Particularly Breaking Bad.  If you were a fan of the show, you know that this little fictional chain had a version of battered chicken, but made its name on the seasoned grilled stuff.  In real life, there are at least a couple of regional chains — El Pollo Loco (west coast) and Pollo Regio (mainly Texas) that specialize in fire-grilled chicken that’s been rubbed down with Mexican-themed spices.  Enter the Philippines.

Filipino food tends to borrow quite a bit from the North American Southwest and Spain, and with good reason.  Spain colonized the islands way back in the 1500s (about the same time it colonized Mexico).  Still, there’s enough of an Asian influence in the Philippines that it reflects in the cuisine. Chicken Inasal is one of those dishes.

The Mexican version of this dish is plenty salty, with spice and, occasionally, lime.  It tastes wonderful with tomato-based salsa.  The Filipino version is Pan-Asian — with just the right balance of Central American and Asian influences.  Unlike its Southwestern counterpart, the Filipino versions tend to taste best with vinegar and soy sauce.

Chicken Inasal Meatballs make an excellent appetizer for holiday parties — and you can use the trivial stuff here as an ice-breaker.  If you want to do the real thing, which is also very good, I’ve also included that recipe.  However you view this, just don’t be afraid of the vinegar.

Chicken Inasal Meatballs

Chicken Inasal Meatballs — Your holiday guests will consider you an expert in Filipino cuisine

Chicken Inasal Meatballs — Your holiday guests will consider you an expert in Filipino cuisine

1 lb – Chicken breast, ground
2 – Garlic cloves, minced
1 – Lemongrass stalk (the white part), finely chopped
2 tsp – Rice wine vinegar
2 tsp – Kalamansi (Calamondin) or Lime juice
2 tsp – Fish sauce
1 tsp – Honey
1 tsp – Kosher salt
1/4-inch nub – Ginger, minced
1 – Large egg
3/4 cup – Panko crumbs

Preheat oven to 400F.

Combine all (meatball) ingredients and shape into 2-inch meatballs. Place on large lightly oiled or parchment-lined baking pan. Bake until cooked through and lightly browned, about 25-30 minutes.

Serve with vinegar and soy sauce. Makes about 20 meatballs.

Chicken Inasal

4 – Chicken leg quarters

Inasal Chicken — The traditional way

Chicken Inasal — The traditional way, minus the skewer

Marinade (recipe below)
Annatto (Achuete) oil (recipe below)

3 – Garlic cloves, minced
2 – Lemongrass stalks (the white part), finely chopped
2 TB – Rice wine vinegar
2 TB – Kalamansi (Calamondin) or Lime juice
2 TB – Fish sauce
1 TB – Honey
1 TB – Kosher salt
1/2-inch nub – Ginger, minced

Trim chicken quarters of excess fat, leaving skin intact. Combine all marinade ingredients and pour over chicken in a large non-reactive dish, making sure that some of the marinade makes its way between the skin and meat. Cover dish and allow chicken to marinate at least 4 hours – overnight.

On the grill — Preheat grill to medium. Grill leg quarters, turning occasionally and basting regularly with Annatto Oil until internal temperature reaches 165F (or juices run clear) – about 15-18 minutes. If you want authenticity — for no other reason than that — skewer the chicken from the upper portion of the leg through the thick portion of the thigh with a bamboo stick that you’ve soaked for at least 30 minutes.

In the oven — Preheat oven to 350F. Bake leg quarters uncovered, skin side up, for about 45 minutes (basting occasionally with Annatto oil). Juices should run clear and skin should be slightly charred.

Chicken Inasal is traditionally served with spicy vinegar as a condiment, with white rice on the side. (The avocados were my idea!)

Serves 4-5.

Annatto Oil
2 cups – Vegetable oil
3/4 cup – Annatto seeds -or- 3½ TB Annatto powder

Warm oil in a small saucepan over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Turn off heat; add seeds/powder. Allow to steep until oil comes to room temperature. Strain through fine mesh (seeds) or coffee filter (powder) into bottle. Refrigerate.


  1. I respond with water and people try to take advantage of me! We should form a tag team, so you can bring the gas response and I can bring the water response as necessary, lol :-). I am obsessed with Filipino food. My best friend in middle school was Filipino and I used to have dinner at her house all the time. I had no idea at the time it was distinct in its own right, I thought her mom was just making a mashup of asian food and the cuban/puerto rican food that was prevalent in our part of Florida. I’m definitely making both of these.

    • adamjholland says:

      Thank you for the kind words, Tekesha. You should know, about my reaction, that I’ve been in a dynamite mood lately. You ready to blow some shit up? 😉

  2. I used to be a gasoline person, a long, long time ago. It was my mom’s red hair and Belgian temperament that got passed down to me. My husband, however is so far on the other end of the spectrum that there wasn’t any choice but for him to rub off on me. All that to say, I’m pretty even-keeled these days.

    Your chicken looks really good, Adam. I personally love all the vinegar.

    • adamjholland says:

      What is it with the backgrounds — Irish, Scot/Irish, Jewish, Italian, German and now … Belgian? Are we all full of gasoline? Truth be told, my New York/New Jersey wife (of Scot/Irish dissent) has calmed me (a German Jew) down quite a bit. Or, maybe it’s the meds.. 😉

  3. This looks great and we love meatballs around these parts so I’ll add that to our New Year’s Eve party – where we all stay home and eat little bites of everything. My daughter and I have been doing that for 20 or so years now and we’ve added our family members as its grown. Like you, I often tend – or want to anyway – toss gasoline on whatever I’m talking about! 🙂

  4. Huge fan of meatballs and those sound amazing. Gonna have to try them. On the grill, of course.

  5. Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve been so dumbstruck by what someone is saying to you that you just can’t even react? I ran into that with a neighbor who used to be a friend & the stuff that was spewing out of this woman’s mouth was so rancid that dynamite would not have been enough – yet I was caught so unawares that nothing, absolutely nothing came out other than goodbye, do not ever speak to me again. Of course then the slow burn turned into a roaring fire which unfortunately only wrecked my sleep for a week. I think I needed you for backup Adam.
    I think these meatballs sound like dynamite & I surely love the looks of that chicken leg. I need to know more about fish sauce though – I see it in recipes but I’ve got it in my mind that it’s has this kind of day old fishy taste….true or false?

    • adamjholland says:

      Diane – I’ve had those moments. I think we all have. And you did the best thing (in my opinion, anyway). — Fish sauce does have a day-old fish taste … Actually a 5-day-old fish taste — out of the bottle. But it has never come across that way in dishes. I even sprinkled some on some grilled burgers earlier this week. Mmmm Mmmm Good!

  6. Kath the Cook says:

    I disagree in regard to fish sauce and the multi-day old taste. You never eat/taste fish sauce straight up – so the flavor out of the bottle is irrelevant.
    It just adds wonderful underlying flavor to whatever it touches. This recipe sounds amazing! red wine vinegar is listed twice in both recipes – is that really red wine vinegar 2 times or copy and paste and another ingredient missing? because I’m going to make and want to get it right. thanks –

    • adamjholland says:

      Thanks for the catch, Kath! That (was) an errant cut & paste on my part. I’ve updated the recipe so that it’s correct. ~ As far as the multi-day-old taste, I don’t think it’s irrelevant to point out that what one smells (initially) is not what one gets (ultimately). Many people shy away from certain ingredients for one reason or another. Fish sauce is one of those ingredients.

  7. Great party meatball idea, Adam. Your stories made me squeamish. I’m not one to fight fire with gasoline, HOWEVER, I am the queen of “foot-in-mouth” disease while in casual conversations.


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