When I first began writing I exclusively penned short stories simply because I didn’t have the patience to write for months in order to finish a novel. I
remember that one of my first attempts at literary prose was an autobiography of my childhood. This in turn rekindled fond memories of my first love affair.
I was somewhere around 4 or 5 years old. How can a 5-year-old become tangled in an affair at such an early age, you ask? Well, please allow me to explain.
She was a hot little number named capsaicin. Sitting on the table at my grandfather’s house was that sleek ripe sexy little thing, the love of my young life, the cayenne pepper. Now being the curious lad that I was known to be at that time (and remain to this day, sometimes to a fault), I lifted the curious object from the table and unceremoniously crammed it into my tender little mouth.
Hot peppers aside from having different levels of heat also sneak up on you at different times during mastication. For instance, the habanero and jalapeno, being at opposite ends of the heat spectrum, both tend to lull you in to a false sense of security before slamming your taste buds into submission; whereas, the cayenne lays it all out up front.
Now picture a respectable young fellow reduced to a flaming madman gulping water, milk, and chewing ice. As near as I can remember the pepper didn’t stop burning until I reached my twelfth birthday.
This is a love affair that has continued to this day. Capsaicin (the oil that gives the pepper it’s heat) releases endorphins in the brain which produces that “hurts so good feeling.” The heat of any particular pepper is measured in “scoville units.” This test was devised by pharmacist Wilbur Scoville in 1912. A solution of capsaicin was incrementally diluted with a solution of sugar-water until a minute amount of heat remained. The number of sugar-water units it took to achieve this was the number given to that particular pepper.
For example a jalapeno tops out at 5,000.
The cayenne around 30,000.
The habanero up to 300,000.
A sneaky little bugger called a ghost pepper can run as high as 1 million.
The hottest pepper is the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion. This little devil can reach a sizzling 2 million.
And with the work they’re doing concentrating this volatile oil to produce searing hot sauces, I’ve seen a few drops turn a harmless chicken leg into a 14 million scoville unit ball of napalm.
Kinda makes me wonder would a romance novel about two hot peppers from different families falling in love and eloping sell?…I could call it Jalapeno and Cayennette .
There is one pepper I failed to mention, mainly because it scares me. It’s used to deter elephants from damaging fence lines in Africa.
Now that’s a spicy fence post!