Lamentations of a Budding Chilihead

August 13th, 2013 | Published in News | 4 Comments


Recently, I’ve come to the conclusion my tastebuds are changing somewhat drastically. How so? As it turns out, where once I couldn’t even tolerate medium heat, and Taco Bell Medium sauce packets were the equivalent of agony, now all commonly available hot sauces only impart a mild zip.

Tabasco? Watery vinegar. Frank’s Red Hot? Tomato sauce. Cholula? Ketchup. Sriracha? Garlic ketchup. Insanity, to put it bluntly, and it was becoming a problem. What do I put on my tacos, pizza, and salad when anything I can buy at a supermarket is the equivalent of tepid bathwater?

It just so happens that Pepper Palace is just down Michigan Ave. from the hotel where I regularly stay when I’m in Chicago for work. So I went there for a visit, because they had to have something I could enjoy with a little heat.

Boy did they! I bought a few infamous samples, in order of heat level:

Then I got a couple of Pepper Palace’s branded sauces:

But this isn’t a review. I loved them all, though the Blair’s was rather painful at first. I purchased the Mango Habanero because it’s a great flavor. The Kutbil-Ik is the hottest blend of El Yucateco, and it’s one of my favorites. The Jolokia sauce was smokey and probably my favorite of them all, so much so that I’ve already gone through almost half the bottle. The Iguana goes well in salads and has a standard medium heat, and Blair’s I’ve reserved strictly for burritos or when my tolerance builds a bit more.

Now I’m running into a similar problem as before. The more of these sauces I use because I like their flavors, the less hot they are. A couple weeks ago, I could barely tolerate Iguana Radioactive, and now I can only describe it as a strong medium heat. How is this possible? I have a theory.

Every Saturday in Urbana, they have a farmer’s market that gets dozens of stalls. One in particular had a pretty sad assortment of random peppers in a small cardboard box. Unlike the other vendors, he had things hotter than JalapeƱos. I saw some cayenne, which can get up to 50,000 scoville, so I had to grab a couple. What I didn’t expect is that he had a couple peppers that I couldn’t recognize. So what else could I do? I bought them.

One of these mystery peppers was hotter than the cayenne, but not remarkably so. I still don’t know what it was, but I ate the whole thing, and suffered for a half hour with no other ill effects. The other looked like this. It was a jagged, studded, curled up, mean looking bastard. I don’t think it was a genuine Bhut Jolokia, but it was probably a variant of Naga. The vendor only had one of them, and he clearly didn’t know what it was, or he wouldn’t have sold it to me for a quarter.

When it came time to test the second mystery pepper, I nibbled a bit off the end, chewed for a bit, and shrugged. But the heat built. Then it kept building. Then my lips started to burn. About fifteen minutes later, my stomach started to cramp. Just the tiny end of this thing was as hot as the cayenne I tested, and it imparted a more drastic overall effect. It also extremely pungent. I cut it open to investigate, and the entire inside was slick with capsaicin oil. It didn’t have the smokiness often associated with Jolokias, which is why I think it’s only in the Naga family. Still, that’s more than enough!

I was shocked, and left with a single question: How on Earth did a random stand at a farmer’s market get ahold of a fresh pepper related to one of the hottest strains in the world? Was it just growing on one of his plants and he harvested it? Did one of his friends put it in the box as a prank? I have no clue.

But after abusing myself with it, every other thing I’ve tasted since registers at a lower scale. JalapeƱos are like bell peppers to me, except they impart a mild warmth. My coveted Jolokia sauce? Smokey, medium spicy ketchup.

From what I’ve heard, there is a limit to this tolerance effect. Eventually I’ll stop acclimating and be able to enjoy a hot sauce without having to step up the heat. Still, I am very much unaccustomed to eating spicy food and finding it mild or bland. I’m not sure I qualify as a chilihead just yet, but I may be by the time I’m done.

Until Tomorrow


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  1. Christian D. says:

    August 15th, 2013 at 8:00 pm [#]


    Dear lord….there is no way in hell I could handle what your putting down! Despite that, if you ever get over to Galena for the weekend with the Mrs. (sorry I’ve forgotten her name..Jen?) there’s a Deli there that has some pretty hot salsas…at least for those of us that are human!

    Do you work from home mostly? And lastly…lets hear more adventures with databases! :) Weird I suppose, but I like tales of tech! What type of hardware are you running your databases on?


    1. Shaun says:

      August 16th, 2013 at 8:53 am [#]


      Hello again, Chris! Yes, I don’t know what’s going on, but at least I don’t have to be afraid of spicy food anymore like I used to be as a kid. If nothing else, I have that. :)

      And I work from home… mostly? Mondays are always from home, Tuesday through Friday are on an alternating schedule. One week at home, one week in Chicago. It’s not bad! I get to be in Chicago without having to actually live there. :p

      So far as tech… FusionIO, sir. All I have to say is FusionIO. They’re expensive as hell, but worth every penny if you really need that kind of random IOPS performance. Slap one of those in any well equipped 1U or 2U server, and your database will purr like a kitten. I did a talk at Postgres Open couple years back. Here’s the presentation slides. Seriously, that saved our ass. :)


  2. Curly123 says:

    August 21st, 2013 at 8:32 pm [#]


    I know that feeling. I’m at a point where if it isn’t an extract sauce or doesn’t contain ghost pepper I don’t feel any heat at all. One tip I can give you is that if you have too much and get gut burn, laying on your stomach or crunching into a ball helps reduce the pain.


    1. Shaun says:

      August 22nd, 2013 at 10:07 am [#]


      Haha. Well, I’ve only recently moved into raw habanero range. But that’s still much hotter than most non-extract sauces that don’t have ghost peppers in them. I just ordered a couple that come highly recommended and start at habanero heat, without any extract. We’ll have to see how that goes.


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