I love insanely spicy foods.

…but I can’t seem to get served a spicy dish at restaurants!

avatar-maki-leftBeing half Japanese, but not looking like it, this happened to me all the time in Japan. But there was very little patronizing—maybe a jovial “Be careful, that’s spicy!” It was more the abject horror I’d see in their faces when I’d pile wasabitt all over something and chomp down. Then I’d watch their lizard brains switch into fight/flight mode when I say “Damn, that’s good stuff” and go for more. They just never expected that I grew up with the stuff.

Although on the other side of the scale, I once went to a Japanese curry chain that ranked it’s dishes on a 1-10 scale of HAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH-tness. Feeling bold, I initially planned to go for the gold at #10, but the part of me that doesn’t like to make an ass of myself (it’s there, I swear) told me to calm down. Instead, I went with a 3 and was immediately humbled in the eyes of flame-wreathed oni spirit. I felt like I was Thor, drinking from the Jötnar horn that was connected to the sea, but never being able to quench my burning face.

That said, why do we keep doing this stuff? Something Nadir didn’t touch upon was that eating capsaicin, capsinoids, and horseradish releases beta-endorphins to relieve the pain. Your brain reacts to this sudden, unwarranted sensory assault with a flurry of chemicals that share the same receptors as morphine and other opioids. Instant buzz. It’s the heat that feels good, man.



This post was brought to you by Radon (Rn).

*You may recognize this as the active ingredient in pepper spray.

** Too bad so many of us love the burning!

***Tarantula venom seems to have independently discovered the use of the same pain pathways as capsaicin, again, as a mammal deterrent. I wonder how it would taste on hot wings!

**** If you’re wondering what ‘breezy’ meat tastes like, I recommend that restaurant.

*****I imagine there’s a single common ancestor from which this advice springs, and anyone who’s heard it since has been spreading the advice in a panic. “Are you writing about peppers? Make sure you mention the jangle touching!”

******see also: ‘ring-sting’.

tttechnically wasabi isn’t “spicy.” We can go into what horseradish does to your poor mucus membranes another time.