What makes hot sauce hot? How do we taste 'hot'?
From That Old Flame of Mine
By J. J. Cook
Book #1 in the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mysteries
We spent some time with hot pepper enthusiasts last week at The Pepper Palace in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
This is the place to go if you love hot peppers, or you're flirting with the idea of trying some of the really hot ones. There were many people trying the ghost pepper for the first time.
Some people try to take it in stages - starting with the peppers that aren't so hot and going to those that are really hot. Their expressions are funny sometimes, terrible others when the heat hits them.
Hot sauce is made from chili peppers, most a mixture of cayenne, jalapeno and habanero peppers. There are some that only come from one type of pepper. They all have one thing in common - peppers contain capsaicinoids. These chemicals occur naturally and actually act on the same nerve fibers that feel heat from the stove or microwave.
The irritation from peppers is different because it also acts on the eyes, in the nose, and on the skin. That's why companies use peppers for repellent spray and as an ingredient in muscle relaxers. This can be anywhere from a warming sensation to a heat that is too hot to handle!
Why do people eat peppers?
"I like the experience," Bill from Indiana told us at The Pepper Palace. Tears were running down his red face. "It's mind blowing."
Another visitor to The Pepper Palace was Dave Wright from Myrtle Beach. Dave was there to try the ghost pepper sauce (naga jolokia), one of the hottest peppers in the world. Dave had a great tattoo of a hot pepper on his arm. Truly a pepper lover.
"Peppers are good for you,"he said before taking a bite of the ghost pepper sauce. "They clean you out."
Dave took a bite of the ghost pepper sauced and didn't go running to the bathroom like so many others. He sniffed a few times and his wife wiped tears from his eyes and sweat from his brow.
"Yeah." His voice was hoarse. "That was hot! Whoo!"
In other words, people eat the hottest peppers in the world for the same reason they climb mountains and ride roller coasters - the thrill.
Me, I like my hot peppers a little at a time, smothered in cream cheese and spread on a cracker. I only ride the kid's roller coasters too!