Hell in a Jar

I love spicy food. I guess I developed a taste for it when my mother took me to this little hole in the wall restaurant in New York named Xochitl which I have mentioned elsewhere. Their hot sauce was served in little ceramic pots, and one learned to use it most sparingly. But like certain other things in life, once the barn door has been opened and the horses are out, there’s no going back.

My cabinet is full of various types of hot sauces; a dear friend presented me with 6 different flavors last Christmas, and along with the ever-present Tabasco™ and Tapatio™ and Frank’s Original™, there are around a dozen other varieties either above the stove or in storage.

Yes, I like hot things.

But there’s a difference between pleasing heat and liquid pain, as I discovered in a few instances – in my experience, Blair’s After Death™ sauce has very little flavor, and mostly heat, even though it comes in at a paltry 50,000 Scoville units. I say paltry, because there are sauces out there that rate much, much higher – but I only used it in a couple of preparations, and in very small doses, and things still came out hotter than I care for. I cannot imagine the effect of adding even one crystal of pure Capsaicin (rated 16 million Scovilles) to any food.


“The strength of Blair’s hottest product, “Blair’s 16 Million Reserve”, is 16 million Scoville units (Tabasco™, in comparison, is 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units). It contains only capsaicin crystals, and is the hottest possible capsaicin-based sauce. Only 999 bottles of “Blair’s 16 Million Reserve” were produced, each one signed and numbered by the firm’s founder, and have all been sold. This reserve was certified by the Guinness book of World Records as the hottest product available.” (Wikipedia)

You can find bottles for sale around the net for around $400.00 if you’re insane enough to want some, or as a collector’s item.

Another time my family took my oldest son out for his birthday, and for an appetizer we ordered something called the “On Death Roll,” which came with a warning on the menu that you had to sign a waiver before ordering it. No waiver was forthcoming, but holy flapping scrith! My younger son and my daughter and I all tried it, and the birthday boy, smarter than we, sat and watched the festivities as we all thought we were going to die. “I didn’t know I was going to get dinner and a show,” said he, roguishly. I have no idea what they added to that tuna roll, but it was accurately advertised. Hqiz!


So the other day when the Goodwoman of the House was frying up some squash and onions, she was rummaging around in the spice cabinet and found this:

Hell in a Jar

“Well,” she thought, “this will add a pleasant bit of spice to the preparation,” thinking it was perhaps akin to Cayenne pepper (30,000 – 50,000 Scovilles). No, dear, it’s pure ground Habanero (100,000 – 350,000 Scovilles). She likes hot stuff too, but the resulting preparation brought tears to both of us. We did eat, and were filled, and the remainder got mixed in to some chili that was waiting to be eaten, which livened it up considerable.

Thai Food

Yup. Goes for other things too. Which reminds me of this story which has been around for a while, but which is too good not to include here:

The Chili Contest

Notes From An Inexperienced Chili Taster Named FRANK, who was visiting Texas: “Recently I was honored to be selected as an outstanding Famous celebrity in Texas, to be a judge at a chili cook off, because no one else wanted to do it. Also the original person called in sick at the last moment, and I happened to be standing there at the judge’s table asking directions to the beer wagon when the call came. I was assured by the other two judges (Native Texans) that the chili wouldn’t be all that spicy, and besides they told me I could have free beer during the tasting, so I accepted. Here are the scorecards from the event:”

Chili # 1: Mike’s Maniac Mobster Monster Chili

JUDGE ONE: A little too heavy on tomato. Amusing kick.
JUDGE TWO: Nice, smooth tomato flavor. Very mild.
FRANK: Holy smokes, what the HELL is this stuff? You could remove dried paint from your driveway with it. Took two beers to put the flames out. Hope that’s the worst one. These hicks are crazy.

Chili # 2: Arthur’s Afterburner Chili

JUDGE ONE: Smoky (barbecue?) with a hint of pork. Slight Jalapeno tang.
JUDGE TWO: Exciting BBQ flavor, needs more peppers to be taken seriously.
FRANK: Shit! Keep this away from the children! I’m not sure what I’m supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver. Shoved my way to the front of the beer line.

Chili # 3: Fred’s Famous Burn Down the Barn Chili

JUDGE ONE: Excellent firehouse chili! Great kick. Needs more beans.
JUDGE TWO: A beanless chili, a bit salty, good use of red peppers.
FRANK: This has got to be a joke. Call the EPA, I’ve located a uranium spill. My nose feels like I have been snorting Drano. Everyone knows the routine by now and got out of my way so I could make it to the beer wagon. Barmaid pounded me on the back; now my backbone is in the front part of my chest.

Chili # 4: Bubba’s Black Magic

JUDGE ONE: Black bean chili with almost no spice. Disappointing.
JUDGE TWO: Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish or other mild foods, not much of a chili.
FRANK: I felt something scraping across my tongue, but was unable to taste it. Sally, the barmaid, was standing behind me with fresh refills to save me the run.

Chili # 5: Linda’s Legal Lip Remover

JUDGE ONE: Meaty, strong chili. Cayenne peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick. Very impressive.
JUDGE TWO: Chili using shredded beef; could use more tomato. Must admit the cayenne peppers make a strong statement.
FRANK: My ears are ringing, and I can’t focus my eyes. I farted and four people behind me needed paramedics. The contestant seemed hurt when I told her that her chili had given me brain damage. Sally saved my tongue by pouring beer directly on it. Sort of irritates me that one of the other judges asked me to stop screaming.

Chili # 6: Vera’s Very Vegetarian Variety 

JUDGE ONE: Thin yet bold vegetarian variety chili. Good balance of spice and peppers.
JUDGE TWO: The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions, and garlic. Superb.
FRANK: My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous flames. Noone seems inclined to stand behind me except Sally.

Chili # 7: Susan’s Screaming Sensation Chili 

JUDGE ONE: A mediocre chili with too much reliance on canned peppers.
JUDGE TWO: Very Ho Hum, tastes as if the chef threw in canned chili peppers at the last moment. I should note that I am worried about Judge Number 3. He appears to be in a bit of distress.
FRANK: You could put a grenade in my mouth and pull the pin, and I wouldn’t feel it. I’ve lost the sight in one eye, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water. My clothes are covered with chili which slid unnoticed out of my mouth at some point. Thank God! At autopsy they’ll know what killed me. Have decided to stop breathing, too painful, not getting any oxygen anyway.

Chili # 8: Helen’s Mount Saint Chili

JUDGE ONE: A perfect ending, this is a nice blend chili, safe for all, not too bold but spicy enough to declare its existence.
JUDGE TWO: This final entry is a good, balanced chili, neither mild nor hot. Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge Number 3 fell and pulled the chili pot on top of himself.
FRANK: ——- (Editor’s note: Judge #3 was unable to report)

All this talk about hot sauce is having an interesting effect, that I’ve never been able to explain – I recorded it back in 2009 over at my Livejournal:

The last two times I’ve prepared spicy foods, though, I’ve had a very unusual experience – the flush to the face begins as soon as I’ve opened the bottle of hot sauce – and haven’t even eaten it yet. The first time it happened, I thought “imagining things.” But it happened again today… as I was liberally lacing my burritos with Tabasco, I started getting the burning and vascular dilation that I always experience with certain peppers – very much like a Niacin flush, if you’ve ever experienced that. And, what’s even stranger, I’m experiencing a repeat as I type this, half an hour after lunch. Just thinking about it was sufficient to recall the phyiological response.

Now tha’s just weird. Maybe if I salivate enough, I can get my doorbell to ring. 

And it’s happening right now. Stranger than fiction.

The Old Wolf has spoken.