I Ruined My Day Eating Insanely Hot Peppers And I’ll Never Be The Same
I just wanna start by saying I’m not great with spicy food, I hate this article, and I wish I’d never been assigned to write it.
My editor decided it’d be fun if someone ate some of the spiciest peppers in the world and documented the experience. Naturally, as one of Thrillist’s resident spice crash-test dummies, I was given the task, despite the fact that it nearly killed me last time. But the content machine’s lust for blood is never satisfied, so here we are.
After an exhaustive search of New York’s specialty grocery stores, I was able to scrounge up seven peppers of varying intensity, ranging from normal hot peppers to dried peppers with the capsaicin level of bear spray. I should have suggested easier story ideas, like letting a Q train run over my foot, or eating a jar of bees. But at the end of the day, I proudly sat, sweaty and frail, in front of a pile of naked pepper stems, multiple empty milk glasses, and this miserable piece of stunt journalism.
Scoville rating: 2,500-8,000
As soon as I snapped into the jalapeño, I knew today was a mistake. Up until that point, the entire project had been conceptual. I’d been focused on buying the peppers and setting up our shoot, not at all worried about the reality of actually eating my haul. Worth noting: As much as I love some jalapeño, I don’t make it a habit to eat the peppers whole. My brother did that once at a wedding. He’s dead now. (No, just kidding; but he did stick his head in a river.) The jalapeño immediately caused me to start hiccuping, my body’s usual defense reaction to spiciness. I made a remark to Jodie, our photographer, about not being sure I wanted to do this anymore. She gave me no emotional support, as is her job.
Scoville rating: 10,000-23,000
Once you’ve gotten over the initial shock of eating a jalapeño pepper, a serrano is not much worse. They’re two to three times hotter, but by this point, my heart rate had already spiked and my face was starting to tingle. If I had to eat more serranos, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I did, however, begin sipping water, which no one told me you aren’t supposed to do. What a naive summer child I was.
Scoville rating: 30,000-50,000
By this point I was getting a little woozy. After eating the cayenne pepper, I found myself thinking about how beautiful it was. Like if you drew a cartoon of a pepper, it would look exactly like a cayenne. But admiration for the pepper’s sex appeal quickly took a backseat to the fire alarm going off in my mouth. Full-on face tingles had set in as I opened the second button on my shirt to breathe better. I noticed that my hiccups had stopped. I’m not a doctor, but I think my body was starting to shut down non-essential features.
Pepper: Indonesian Chili (Dried)
Scoville rating: 50,000-100,000
Dried peppers have no culinary reason to exist, outside of adding a capsaicin kick to a sauce. Nobody’s just noshing on dried peppers because -- surprise, surprise -- they taste like shoelaces. Luckily, these went down fairly quickly, since they’re small, but the heat was no less awful. My nose ran non-stop. My water and milk were gone. The heat on these didn’t hit as quickly, since there was no water in the pepper to carry the boiling lava juice around my mouth. Instead, the peppers stuck to my molars and tortured me, getting hotter over the course of a few minutes. Truly a 0/10 experience.
Scoville rating: 100,000-350,000
Habaneros are basically the high end of what a normal person would ever eat, and for good reason. I had an old roommate who put habanero hot sauce on everything, only to spend an hour or more in the bathroom each night. After crunching into my fresh habanero, the entire experience took a turn. This went from “fun but difficult” to “medically unadvised.” I burped profusely. I literally began to see spots. Spit was leaking out of my face. The walls were closing in. Not coincidentally, this was the last pepper for which I have any coherent notes.
Pepper: Ghost (Dried)
Scoville rating: 885,000-1,000,000
The first of the final two dried peppers was a hickory-smoked ghost pepper, which I assume is an ingredient on whatever they call Top Chef in Hell. I could sense, vaguely, that we had an audience, as sadism-leaning coworkers came by to enjoy my pain. But I think my body had sort of transcended pain at this point. Later on, video footage would show me demonstrating the body language of a wounded animal, but I don’t remember any of that. I remember alternating between leaning back and panting heavily and leaning forward to leak goo out of my face holes. By this point I had chugged all of my water and two glasses of milk, so I was also feeling gross and bloated on top of tortured.
Pepper: Trinidad Scorpion (Dried)
Delirium set in. I was in full panic mode. When I said I’d transcended pain? I was wrong, and frankly, my body is a jerk for not going into shock. The tingling, then numbness, that had spread past my face and shoulders, had made its way to my feet, and I could feel my heartbeat in my legs. My ears rang. I just wanted it to end. But it would not.
Ten minutes after I’d swallowed the last bit of pepper, I was still 100% incapacitated, alternating between pacing around the room and keeling over, feeling like I was about to puke. I gasped for air, wondering if my throat would close up and end my suffering. My stomach was completely full of milk by this point, so I resorted to sipping it and then spitting it out into a bag, like a wine tasting, but from a nightmare I had. (Pro tip: It’s best to sort of inhale small sips of milk so it forms a spray/foam. Also cold milk is much, much better.) After 30 minutes I was able to talk normally again, and by an hour, my head had returned to its normal temperature. Even 24 hours later though, I was getting random stomach pains. I can’t recommend this to anyone for any reason. Medically and morally, I’d say that we as a species need to move on from recreationally pepper-spraying ourselves.