Love for spicy food isn't always shared

Sep 8, 2017 By Robert H. Peck, Staff Writer

Readers may remember a time I wrote in this column about hesitance to put jalapeno peppers into an omelette.

Those days have passed. I've developed a real taste for spicy food.

When I say a taste, I mean more of an obsession: I put three whole serranopeppersinto my eggs every morning, drench them in Cholula hot sauce (always go for this, not Tabasco, if you have the choice), and still don't feel much burn. Hot foods turn out to be a bit like addictive substances: Once you start, you build up resistance fast and need more and more spice to get the same effect.

I feel that the heat has improved my life. In fact, science backs me up here. Recent studies in China show that people who consume spicy foods upwards of six times per week add 10 years to their life spans; the chemicals in hotpeppersare known to boost metabolism; my tear ducts and nose remain permanently wet and runny.

That last one is based on experience, not science. Sorry. But it's true, and I've come to love it.

Many foods I've been spicing up are much less enjoyable when I run out of hot stuff and am forced to eat them plain.

Perhaps you're like me.

Have you ever found yourself needing to slice up a jalapeno, but been too lazy to pick up the knife, so just bitten it in half instead, licking your fingers afterward?

Do you spend 15 minutes blocking the fresh produce at the store while you carefully inspectpeppers?

Have you long since lost feeling in your nostrils?

If you said yes to any of those things, we're of the same opinion here.

Our lives are objectively better by most measures. Congratulations, friends. We did it.

However, though I'm loath to lessen our triumph, a word of caution before things get out of hand: Much as you might now be spending more onpeppersthan you do on all of your utilities combined, and loving it, keep in mind that our wonderful heat nirvana is still relatively uncommon. Stupidly, many people don't like the spice so much.

It's tempting, I know, to try and make them embrace it, to offer them meals laden with an appropriate degree of hotness, to sneak sauces into their chili or onto their sandwiches, so that they, too, can appreciate what we have.

But I've learned the hard way that this approach is foolish. I've recently tried getting my more cautious friends and family members to embrace hot food, with disappointing results all around: I don't get to share my glee, and they stand at the sink for half an hour fanning their mouths and drinking milk.

So if you are planning to introduce spice into somebody's life, take it easy for now. No doubt, with time, they'll come to love it. But until then, remember how long it took before you found this path.

Allow others the chance to build up their tolerance slowly. Don't be like me.

Editor's note: Riverton native Robert H. Peck is a graduate student in the Iowa Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa.