Ouch! That’s Delicious

We talk about food as an experience, but usually we mean a pleasant experience. For some adventure junkie foodies, however, in the vein of Bizarre Food with Andrew Zimmern on the Travel Channel, a food experience can be painful. Excruciating, even.

Take Carolina Reaper Madness from Pacqui Tortilla chips out of Austin, Texas. It’s a chip — and we do mean one, singular chip — spiced with Carolina Reaper peppers, considered the hottest kind in the world, with a Scoville Heat Chart rating of 2.2 million. This $5 chip that comes out at the end of September arrives in a tiny coffin-shaped box with a red Grim Reaper on the front and a dare on the back.

Just a look at Carolina Reaper pepper challenges on YouTube are enough to keep you from ever wanting to try one. Those who have have lived to tell the tale experienced burning, vomiting, hives and allergy attacks requiring inhalers and oxygen.

Food and flavor psychologists have profiled people who like spicy foods as adventurers: “benign masochists” who like borderline unpleasant experiences like riding roller coasters, smoking cigarettes, drinking black coffee and watching scary and/or sad movies.

For the jaded foodie looking for a new flavor profile (namely, agony) and the digitally overloaded whose online lives divorce them from their senses, spicy food provides an added dimension to eating — you feel it more than you taste it. This chip that hurts is part of the Extrasensory trend we’re following, in which the senses are combined in unusual ways. In this case the tactility of painful spiciness is foregrounded over taste. You could also belong to the Micro Tribe that came, saw, crunched — and hurled.