Do you like your food spicy? There are plenty of folks out there (myself included) who seem to enjoy making their food painful to eat. You might think that those people have less sensitive taste buds or something like that to be able to withstand the heat, but that’s not the case. While desensitization to capsaicin (the thing in peppers that makes them spicy) is a thing, that’s not the main mechanism behind why some people prefer the heat. From Popular Science:
Over the past few decades, culinary psychologists and other food researchers have proposed several cultural and biological reasons why we eat spices that may elicit pain, such as early learning, prior exposure, societal norms and physiological differences in taste and oral anatomy. Although desensitization to capsaicin, the plant chemical that gives peppers their burn, is well documented, there’s also evidence that the effect is surprisingly small.
“This suggests chili liking is not merely a case of increased tolerance with repeated exposure, but rather that there is an affective shift towards a preference for oral burn that is not found in chili dislikers,” write Nadia Byrnes and John Hayes, researchers at Pennsylvania State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences, in a new study on spicy food consumption.
Basically, some people just enjoy the pain that comes with eating spicy foods. And depending on what exactly you’re eating, that pain can be intense.
For example, let’s take the Carolina Reaper pepper, the hottest pepper in the whole world. Even if you love that burn, I’m guessing it’s probably too much for most people – if not everyone. I mean, a few weeks ago I wrote about competitive eater L.A. Beast setting the world record for most ghost peppers eaten in 2 minutes. Now Ghost Peppers are not quite as potent as the Carolina Reaper, and to be fair, he ate a TON of ’em, but he does that kind of thing professionally, and it certainly seemed like he struggled with it.
So what happens when a regular Joe tries to eat just a single Carolina Reaper? Let’s find out.
Meet Mike. He’s a coal miner from Kentucky, and he’s about to do something I bet he regrets:
The goal here was to eat one, and then not drink anything for 3 minutes. I definitely didn’t think he was going to make it, and if it weren’t for all his coworkers constantly yelling at him every time he touched that milk jug, I’m sure he wouldn’t have. I guess that counts as peer pressure, doesn’t it? You can really see how much pain he’s in after that 3 minutes are up. But scrolling through Reddit, I came across a comment that made me think the biggest regret was yet to come:
The whole time I was watching, the part that scared me the most was when he handled it with his bare hands and then wiped his eyes/etc with his hands. Reapers are no freaking joke.
Fun Carolina Reaper Fact: it takes up to 10-15 minutes from ingestion for the reaper to even hit full power and many say that the pain/cramping felt in the stomach & anus is far worse than the heat itself.
Source: I grow Reapers and am a rabid pepper fan.
Oh yeah, as soon as he rubbed his face, I was worried about him. You know how they say you should always wash your hands thoroughly (or better yet, use gloves) after cutting hot peppers and before going to the bathroom? That’s because the capsaicin gets on your hands even from just briefly handling the peppers – and when you transfer that to certain orifices (like your eyes or nose – or in the case of using the bathroom, your junk), you’re in for a world of pain.
I mean, the Carolina Reaper seems to almost be too much for a dude named Chili Klaus, who is described as the “Michael Jordan of eating hot peppers.” Check out his reaction:
So, you know… Don’t try this at home.