According to Bertrand Russell, “Men who are unhappy, like men who sleep badly, are always proud of the fact.”
Ditto for men who like ultra-spicy food.
They act like you’re supposed to be impressed when they order, say, the curry vindaloo at an Indian restaurant, and then they make a big show of not needing to gulp water and they scoff at your biryani like it’s a sign of a major character flaw.
“Mild, medium, or hot?” the waiter will ask during the ordering part of the meal.
And the chili aficionado will be like, “Tell you what, why don’t you just pop a can of lit chafing fuel into my mouth.”
What are they trying to prove?
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being proud of fiery cuisine if it’s part of your cultural heritage. But if, on the other hand, your forebears passed down nothing more piquant than tuna casserole, I feel like you can settle down about your recently acquired preference for flavor.
I suppose it’s the zeal of the new convert. With taste buds awakened at last, the pepper evangelist suddenly feels compelled to spread the good news. Almost exactly the same thing happened to the early Christians at Pentecost, right down to the flaming tongues of fire and the life-changing influence of the Holy Ghost Pepper.
I myself come from tuna-casserole people. When I was a kid, I considered cinnamon-flavored gum too hot to handle.
Over time, though, my tongue has become less sensitive to spice, presumably due to some combination of exposure therapy, dulled receptors caused by aging, and burn damage I’ve sustained at various points by trying to consume boiling soups, scalding cocoa, and those apple turnovers that McDonald’s fills with a sticky-sweet goo heated to the approximate temperature of Earth’s core.
Having acquired all that experience, my tongue can withstand a lot more stimulation than when it was that young innocent shocked by the boldness of Big Red. I assume that, before all is said and done, the organ will just lie there in my mouth like a hardened, tasted-it-all French whore who smokes cigarettes and says, “I feel nothing.”
I don’t know whether medical science backs up that explanation for how I’ve built up a tolerance and even an occasional hankering for spicy food, but the account squares with the conventions of melodrama so it works for me.
The upshot is that I now sprinkle hot sauce onto just about any egg dish as well as most Mexican specialties. I’ll squirt sriracha onto some Asian foods, too.
A while back, I worked with a guy who loved sriracha so much that on Halloween he dressed up as one of Huy Fong’s green-capped bottles of the stuff. His girlfriend, meanwhile, went as the woman from the Cholula label.
I acknowledge that probably qualifies as cultural appropriation, but you have to understand this was in 2013, when we tuna-casserole people were still allowed to run amok. (I also acknowledge that the colonizers-running-amok era, which dates roughly to the dawn of time, hasn’t exactly come to a close yet.)
In spite of my semiregular use of hot sauce, I have not succumbed to the strange fanaticism the product seems to inspire in others. As a matter of fact, I can’t think of a condiment I could be for Halloween.
And yes, I know you’re thinking, What about Hellman’s mayonnaise?
To which I say, okay, fine, you have a point. But don’t I have at least enough tangy zip to be Miracle Whip?