I was born and bred in Texas. West Texas to be exact; where we are weaned on jalapenos and other flame throwing peppers. Peppers add spice and heat to a variety of dishes. Sometimes I just pop a pepper whole and suffer the burns later. Peppers are high in heat, but in vitamin C as well. Now while I was growing up, my mother made a snack by hollowing out peppers, filling them with cheese and baking until the cheese melted. It is fabulous. So when my wife and I married I tried to reproduce my mother’s recipe, but without the recipe. Bad idea. Very, very bad idea. So the brain surgeon that I am purchased a cayenne pepper, because it resembled the shape I recalled from my memory even though there was no sign at the supermarket produce section to confirm the variety. Now my wife, 3 years younger than me, was only 6 at the time. She had no idea of the Scoville scale, nor did I but that is irrelevant at this point in the story. We were in love and ready to tackle the real world. Sometimes, life tackles back and piles on for a 15 yard penalty, or in this case a complete ejection from the dining table.
If you have ever seen the Scoville rating scale a Jalapeno has a rating between 3,500 to 8,000 Scoville’s. I assume Scoville is some guy that ran around screaming “Holy Crap” when he tested the various forms of peppers and the scale represents the number of times he said, “Holy Crap, Holy Crap, Hooooly Crap!” You get the point.
Well, a cayenne has “holy crap” scale in the range of 30,000 to 50,000. That’s a serious 4 scale fire alarm. Luckily I didn’t accidentally select a Naga Jolokia pepper that has a Scoville of over 1,000,000. That’s right – this pepper is in the range of law enforcement pepper spray and is considered a Tinyatoxin. So stay far away from Tinyatoxin’s, unless you want to shape-shift into Puff the Magic Dragon. But, I digress as usual.
So here I am, the new chef on the scene. I hollow out the peppers, stuff them with cheese and bake them in a hot oven. My mouth was watering in anticipation of the treat to follow. My child wife, not knowing, but trusting me completely, awaits as well. We take one bite of the pepper, and yes, you guessed it “Holy Crap, Holy Crap, Hoooooly Crap!” We are running around with our lips on fire, eyes watering, waving our hands to try to cool off the chemical burn. If you have seen “Alien”, you know the creature has acid for blood. I am positive that blood is made of cayenne pepper. Yours truly, the Einstein here, accidentally rubs my eyes. I won’t repeat what I said for the sake of your children and grandchildren.
Well by the next morning, after we survive the night, the final burn arrives and I won’t go into that. I am sure as an adult you need no narrative to spark (no pun) your imagination. So my child bride matures really quickly and refuses to let me ever purchase peppers again. She knows Scoville real well now. She begs me to call my mother. I did and explained our trauma. All I can tell you is I never heard my mother laugh so long and hard. She finally had some revenge for all the fits I gave her as a young boy. Once she regained her composure, she said it was a banana pepper. Banana peppers have a “holy crap” factor of only 100-900. What I tried to eat was only 56 times greater in Scoville’s rating. Holy crap, I am lucky to still have all my plumbing!
Well needless to say, you gain wisdom from all your human follies. So every time I go to the supermarket, I switch the signs for banana and cayenne peppers. I do this as a public service, so that everyone can gain knowledge of the Scoville scale. If you should by chance go shopping and hear a large number of people screaming “Holy Crap, Holy Crap, Hoooooly Crap” and see an honest looking guy, sporting a wide grin, chuckling and whistling going by you, you know who it was.
So come on, share some of your cooking follies. Join my band of absurd followers. We are on a journey together.