Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Respect the chili. Always, always respect the chili. The habanero pepper is one of the hottest peppers in existence. (India's Naga Jolokia -- also called "Ghost Pepper" -- is tops, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.) How do they know? Because the substance that makes foods hot has been identified as capsaicin (8 - methyl - N - vanillyl - 6 - nonenamide), which is measured in something called Scoville Units. The habanero pepper, also known as the Scotch Bonnet, contains up to half a million Scoville Units. A jalapeño pepper, by contrast, has less than ten thousand. Pure capsaicin has 16 million. Don't mess with that stuff. Respect the chili.
I should know. I was once attacked with pepper spray in the Paris metro as I tried to be a hero by chasing after a thief who stole my friend's wallet. Big mistake. The thief turned the tables and got me good. I ran like a ninny into the Parisian streets and tried to wash my eyes out in a bistro bathroom. Oddly, it didn't hurt that much until I used the water on my eyes. That made me scream uncontrollably, which is considered in French culture to be a faux pas. So after being chased away by the bistro proprietor, my friends and I schlepped home on foot because we had missed the last metro. For several days, as the capsaicin worked its way painfully through my body, I took some consolation in the gaudy beauty of Paris.
I recently came across an unforgettable video of a kid who did not respect the chili. He tries to eat a habanero and is smacked down like the fool he is. He's quite nonchalant at first, munching away smugly, until the white light of pain suddenly strikes. His pathetic shrieks are haunting and ridiculous.
Remember: respect. Always, always, respect the chili. I bet this kid does now.