It’s been a full 18 hours since I made one of the worst decisions of my personal life and professional career, and I’m still very much feeling the terribly painful repercussions. No, I didn’t make a costly editorial error on Food Republic or break up with a girlfriend I now realize was actually “the one.” My mistake was — with the gleeful encouragement of my so-called friends — agreeing to eat a small red pepper that’s probably no more than one inch long: the Carolina Reaper.
I pride myself on my ability to not only handle, but actually enjoy heavily spiced food. I’ll always order the hottest version of a particular dish on a menu, often heap ungodly amounts of habanero-based hot sauce on just about anything and regularly mock friends and colleagues who whine that something is “too spicy.” Even after watching multiple contestants from the Carolina Reaper Eating Challenge at this weekend’s Hot Sauce Expo in Brooklyn run straight to the bathroom to throw up after consuming the peppers, I remained unfazed. Rumor has it that the winner of the Challenge (which involved eating as many of the peppers as possible in one minute) passed out on the bathroom floor for over a quarter of an hour mere moments after setting a new Guinness World Record, even requiring medical attention. But come on — surely this single chili pepper couldn’t actually pose a serious threat to my spice supremacy.
I was spectacularly wrong. You see, this pepper has attained a cult-like following and holds the official distinction of being the world’s hottest. It is the product of the PuckerButt Pepper Company, which is run by a man named Ed Currie — a hot-pepper/sauce celebrity of sorts — who crossed a Pakistani Naga Viper pepper with a La Soufrière pepper from St. Vincent to create the Carolina Reaper, which checks in at an ridiculously high 2.2 million Scoville Units. For comparison’s sake, the jalapeño pepper has a heat level of around 2,500 Scoville Units. Not good with math? We’ll help you out — a Carolina Reaper is approximately 880 times hotter than a jalapeño. Yes, in hindsight, I should have been just a tad more apprehensive.
Armed with gloves to properly handle the pepper, an iPhone, a two-liter bottle of Lactaid milk (being lactose-intolerant doesn’t exactly help with this challenge) and a strong sense of false confidence, I set out to amaze the small group of friends who had assembled to witness the feat (and, more than likely, were wishing for an epic failure).
Without allowing any time to second-guess myself, I popped the little red devil whole into my mouth and chewed it a little bit before swallowing it all. The pepper actually first gives off a hint of sweetness — a “hold on, this isn’t bad at all” couple of seconds, if you will, that act as the perfect mind game for the immense amounts of pain it’s about to inflict; it’s as if the pepper is having a quick little chuckle before getting down to business. This brief period is immediately followed by the realization that, well, the world’s hottest pepper is in your system.
Food Republic Editor Eats The World’s Hottest Pepper
Warning: This video contains graphic language.
It’s nearly impossible to accurately describe the absurd amount of heat that takes over your entire mouth, just because there’s quite literally nothing else on earth to which to compare it. After allowing myself a few never-ending seconds to get the full “experience,” I began chugging — and chugging — milk, to no real avail. I spent the next several minutes alternating between cursing nonsensically, punching and kicking kitchen counters and appliances and — you got it — chugging milk.
But the worst part is yet to come. While the milk may somewhat temper the fiery party running wild in your mouth, nothing can save you from the extreme burning sensations that then hit your chest and stomach. Over the course of the ensuing hour after eating the pepper, I went from being physically unable to speak to needing to lie down under the covers of my bed (while twitching and emitting an especially bizarre, low-pitched moaning sound) to shaking uncontrollably to running to the bathroom thinking I was going to throw up no fewer than three times (alas, I went 0/3, meaning that my eating attempt was officially successful. Hooray?). I was unable to eat a single bite of the food my friends and I had ordered before I followed through with this idiotic challenge. Almost an entire day later, my stomach is still very much in shambles and I shudder just thinking about eating any type of spicy food. I’ll spare you the details of other bodily functions.
Apart from being one of the few people in the world to successfully complete the challenge, there are really no positives to draw from this act of sheer stupidity. I am currently in the midst of a weight-loss diet and commented to a friend that at least the pepper had eliminated my appetite for the evening…before he laughingly pointed out that I had consumed approximately 1,000 calories worth of milk.
One final point: I’d be remiss to not mention that I do have another fresh Carolina Reaper remaining in my refrigerator and would very much enjoy being on the other side of the camera this time. Feel free to drop me a line if you have some sort of masochistic hankering for a day of pure suffering.