Here’s a fun fact about me: I’m not a huge fan of spicy things. Sure, I’ve gained an appreciation for the noble jalapeño. I’ve found that pho and chicken fried rice benefit from some sriracha. I had a burrito yesterday with habanero in it because I had a healthy amount of soda to wash it down. I like a little heat, enough to make me sweat and clear the sinuses.
A few years back, my friends RJ and Isaac convinced me to do a hot wing challenge in Seattle. I don’t know why I did it. To say that I did? That seems to be a trend for poor decision making where I’m concerned. The challenge was seven 7-alarm wings in seven minutes with nothing to drink. I also had to eat the lettuce they came served on, which was packed with the sauce the wings were covered in. This was not a fun time for me.
The wings came out in a thick, dark brown sauce that looked like shit. Literally, it looked like shit. It was offensive to the eye and the smell of the things was a macabre indication of the torment my insides were about to endure.
I got through two and a half before the heat hit me. By the time I was finished with the third, my eyes had betrayed me and the world had taken on the blurry nature of being underwater. By the time I finished the fourth wing, appearance had become reality and I was actively sobbing into the wing.
“It’s not worth it,” I cried in as manly as fashion as I could muster. “I can’t. I want to quit.”
My friends, either believing in a steely resolve that I did not believe of myself or reveling in my suffering (likely a little of both, more of the latter), refused to let me throw in the towel. “You’re over halfway now. If you wanted to quit, you should have stopped at three!”
But they had a point. I forced myself through three more lava-covered monstrosities and came to the giant piece of lettuce. There was so much sauce on it. So much. I wrapped the piece of lettuce in a ball and shoved the whole thing in my mouth. It was honestly the hardest part of the entire experience. The texture, the taste. I almost vomited all over the table. I have no idea how I didn’t.
I finished with thirty some seconds left and let the timer run out. I drank two things of milk, ran out and screamed in the street, vomited on the sidewalk, and came in for my free t-shirt and my picture to be taken on the wall. I went to wash my hands and inadvertently rubbed my eyes, introducing myself to a whole new level of hell. Then I spent the rest of the day in distress, my stomach and bowels betraying me in a variety of interesting ways.
It was not my most dignified experience, nor was it fun in any real meaning of the word. I’ll stick to my mild salsa in the future, thanks.
Then last night came around. RJ and our friend Phillip and I were sitting around and they bring up that they’ve purchased some Carolina Reapers, also known as the world’s hottest pepper. How hot? Here are some comparisons.
The jalapeño can rank between 2,500-10,000 on the Scoville rating. Cayenne is 30,000 to 50,000. The Red Sabina Habenero is 248,556 and the ghost pepper is a whopping 1,041,427.
Then you have the Carolina Reaper, sitting there with its average rating of 1,569,300 but peak levels as high as 2.2 MILLION.
Full disclosure: RJ ate two of these in a row without doing much more than breaking a sweat, tearing up some and having some abdominal discomfort. Phillip and I reacted less well, and I, worst of all.
The first thing that went through my head just after biting down just below the stem and chewing was, “This is actually a pleasant tasting pepper.”
And it was. It was also all a lie. Like the crew of Homer’s Odyssey, reveling in Circe’s bountiful feast before having the veil ripped away and realizing that it’s all a lie and they’re trapped by deep magic, my next thought became, “Oh, shit, I can’t back out now. This is it. There’s no off button.” At one point Phillip said that he wanted to run away from it, but there was nowhere to go. That was accurate for me as well.
I started drinking beer: Labatt Blue, which isn’t a bad beer but did fuck all to help. My tongue desperately tried to remove the shreds of pepper that had lodged in my teeth while my eyes melted and my face felt like I was gargling coals. I had seen videos of this ordeal. The people eating them got hiccups more often that not as their bodies frantically tried to figure out what unholy disaster had been loosed within it. None of us three got hiccups. I did pace and swear a lot, and I cried. I’m not even ashamed.
It was about a solid six minutes for both Phillip and myself before our faces began to claw themselves from the Purgatory they were exiled to and the burn traveled downwards to neck and chest and eventual some light pains in the stomach.
What followed was what can only be described as post-orgasmic relief. The body, being so flooded with endorphins and adrenaline finally relaxed and settled into a state of peace. More or less. The tummy still had some rumblies.
And that should have been the end of it. We hung out, drank some more. RJ went off to bed. And about three or four hours after that, I felt like someone stabbed me in the stomach. It felt like my intestines were pulling an Ourobouros and devouring themselves. Whether it was the pepper or the beer or the sandwich I ate earlier or the combination of all three, my body had had enough. I heaved myself into the bathroom and prayed to the porcelain god and, really, any god that would come to my rescue.
You know how puking is generally unpleasant? Especially with the bile that comes up? Now imagine that bile is literally the hottest thing you’ve ever put in your mouth and it’s left a trail of fire down your esophagus.
But my stomach felt alright after that. I crawled into bed. I wouldn’t call myself victorious, necessarily, but I certainly pushed myself places I never thought I’d go.
So, yeah. Don’t fear the Reaper. Or do. Just don’t eat it. Or do. I mean, RJ ate two and he’s fine.
EDIT: He just told me that after going upstairs he thought he was going to “fucking die”.
“I was up here withering in pain on the couch and yelling. Then I passed out from the pain and woke up every hour to it. Thanks for talking me into eating 2 guys. Happy birthday to me.” And then he called Phillip and I both whiners.