I'm Eating What?! Pickled Cayenne Peppers

Categories: Ethical Eating
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I haven't been more frightened to eat something as I was this week. Food critic and resident sadist John Linn walked up to my desk holding what looked like a glass trophy filled with long green peppers. He asked if I liked spicy foods and I replied that I did. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I regretted saying them. Sure I'll pour Tabasco sauce on my eggs in the morning and order hot wings at bars during football seasons, but I never venture into the extra hot wings and I'm routinely scared off when a waiter informs me that the dish is "super spicy." Now with two little words, I'm afraid I've just signed myself up for an afternoon of excruciating pain shooting through my GI tract.

The glass container is labeled "Pickled Cayenne Peppers" and they look like Satan's gangrenous fingers. The long, thin peppers come to a point that looks sharp enough to poke an eye out. After a couple minutes I look to my boss for any kind of excuse to get out of blistering my tongue and he suggests it might be a good idea to have some kind of dairy product around when we eat these. I quickly agree with him and decide to put off my torture at least one more day. In hindsight, that wasn't the best idea. I spent the next 24 hours with visions of my bandaged tongue and John's maniacal laughter dancing in my head. I decided to break the rules and research these peppers in an attempt to satiate my fears.

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It didn't work. My research only confirmed my fears. With a Scoville rating in the 30 to 50 thousand range, the cayenne pepper is about 22,000 Scoville units above my comfort zone. I stopped at a convenience store on the way to the office, grabbed a half gallon of milk and some yogurt, and prayed the peppers had somehow found their way into a trashcan somewhere.

No such luck as I'm greeted with John's sly smile and another invitation to ingest pain for everyone else's amusement. Since I'm all out of excuses now, I take a deep breath and agree to give it a shot. A small crowd gathers around the desk as we open the jar. I breathe deeply, expecting the scent to sting my nostrils and clear my sinuses. Instead, it smells like straight vinegar. We take a long, thick pepper from the jar and cut it into three small pieces. Three of us pop it into our mouths and wait for the pain.

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It never comes. These peppers taste more like pickled green beans than hot peppers. In fact, I've had Spicy Asian Wings at a certain chain restaurant that had more heat. After the days of worrying about eating these peppers, I find myself disappointed as I chew on the soggy flesh and bite through seeds. It's like waking up on Christmas morning and realizing your parents spent all the present money on crystal meth and pony rides. For themselves.

We repeated the experiment with another pepper, fearing the first might have been a dud of some sort, but it was the same as the first. The heat is a non-factor, the taste is more vinegar than anything else, and the texture is closer to cooked green peppers than the crunchy pickled peppers I expected. This experiment was a resounding disappointment. The glass container that I original pictured as being a trophy to be proudly displayed after finishing the peppers now is a sign of epic disappointment and a reminder that I over think these types of things too often. Of course, now that I've written this blog, I have a feeling the next few things my coworkers bring me will be truly heinous and will cause some type of immense pain. C'est la vie.

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