Super-hot chillies: Why eat them?

Last updated 05:07 20/03/2014

NO PAIN NO GAIN: Or rather no gain from such pain?

Ganesh Raj
SPEAKING UP: Our resident Crimes Against Food writer, Ganesh Raj.
Opinion poll

Do you love super hot food?

Yes, I love the pain

I like 'medium' spicy

No! It ruins a dish!

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A weekly food series that takes an irreverent but informative look at crimes against food. This week Ganesh Raj discusses the inexplicable passion people have for chilli ... 

'I Fell Into A Burning Ring Of Fire

I Went Down, Down, Down

And The Flames Went Higher

And It Burns, Burns, Burns

The Ring Of Fire

The Ring Of Fire' 

I have no doubt that Johnny Cash wrote this legendary tune after having a hardcore vindaloo from his local Indian.

How else could a man so accurately describe the feeling of one's entire system shutting down as it prepares to expel the cinematic equivalent of the final fight scene in Alien vs Predator?

I am of course talking about the evils of eating too much chilli.

When I was a kid, I'd watch in awe as my dad ate dinner, alternating bites of his meal with bites off a red chilli pepper. I should also mention that my heritage is Indian, and that my mum served up traditional spicy dishes on a nightly basis.

Even so, these dishes were never spicy enough for Dad. I'd always assumed that he'd just burned all the taste buds off his tongue in order to leave him desensitised to the pain of my mum's constant nagging. 

But he's not the only one who loves an extreme level of spice ... 

Kismot, a restaurant in Edinburgh, Scotland, held a competition back in 2011 in which diners were dared to eat the extra-hot Kismot Killer curry (crafted with the bhut jolokia chilli that is said to have 20 times the potency of a cayenne pepper).

In fact, the curry is so hot that some of the competitive eaters were left writhing on the floor in agony, vomiting and fainting and ambulances were called. Sensibly, half of the 20 people who took part in the challenge dropped out after witnessing the first diners vomiting, collapsing, sweating and panting.

So the question has to be, why do some people enjoy the pain of super hot chilli cutting through their insides like chainsaws? 

Research shows that ultimately, it's a combination of factors that influence who goes for the mild wings on Super Bowl Sunday and who reaches for the extra super hot.

Certainly, prior experience, childhood exposure and learning all play a critical role in liking spicy foods. However, the same research shows that there are also individuals who acquire the preference for hot food as adults once they move away from home.

It's almost like they want to reinvent themselves away from the cultural norms they were brought up with. 

So what about dad? When I asked him why he chomped on the raw chillies he said, "A chilli is a chilli. I like the excitement and it makes me feel alive."

And then mum smacked him on the back of the head with a towel.

- Are you a mega fan of super hot food? Why?!

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