Kicking It Up a Notch (aka Turning Up the Heat)

ImageI like to eat my food on the hot side. Zesty. Spicy. Picante. To me, many foods taste better if I kick it up a notch. Maybe this is because I come from a family who added hot sauce to practically everything. Or perhaps it comes from growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, surrounded by neighbors who immigrated from countries notorious for their spicy cuisine. Or maybe I am just masochistic. Who knows?

My kids just don’t get it. “Why would you want to eat something that makes your mouth feel like it’s on fire?” my chili-hating daughter once asked me.

“Because it’s fun,” I told her. And in a weird way, it is fun to torture myself with bite after painful bite, scorching my taste buds and making my eyes water. Kind of like in the way it’s fun to scream in terror while descending on a gigantic roller coaster. Kind of like some people (not I) find it fun to jump out of airplanes, or bungee-jump from bridges, or run marathons in crazy hot weather. Or any kind of weather. 


Chief Wiggam holding a quetzalacatenango chili pepper with tongs

To be honest, my tastes are fairly mild. I love spicy thai and Indian curries, piping hot chili con carne, and my own personal lentil stew recipe. But I am not a maniac, like those people who eat plain spicy chilies, or like Homer Simpson, who had hallucinations after eating chili loaded with Guatemalan Insanity Peppers (aka the Merciless Peppers of Quetzalacatenango). I have no desire to try eating a Bhut Jolokia, the hottest chili pepper in the world. But I will happily add pepperoncinis to my sandwiches, hot sauce to my rice noodles, and wasabi to my sashimi. Now that’s hot.