An ill-advised team building exercise with my rectum will not be repeated. Not until next year, anyway…
Growing up, my favorite pizza place was always Flying Pie. I remember first going there for a friend’s birthday and falling in love with the Ice Cube & Ice T adorned ice and tea dispensers, the goofy hats, and the kooky Boise vibe in general. As I’ve aged, the beer selection and pizza diversity have kept me coming through the years. The Pie isn’t all innocent food and arcade games, though- their Triple Habanero pizza is one of the only food challenges Adam Richman of Man V. Food was unable to complete. As a person who typically avoids being subjected to violence at the hands of their foodstuffs, I’d never done so much as the Single Habanero; they are no joke. The Triple contains eighteen habanero peppers, seeds and all, pulsed in a food processer and baked into the pizza for maximum heat. We were told that coming in on the final weekend meant the habaneros would be juicer and even more satanic in nature than at the beginning of the season.
Our server brought waivers with our plates, as well as a warning placard to alert the busser that our dishes were capable of burning through latex (they have to double glove when making the pizza, as the habs actually burn through a single layer), and our fates were sealed. The good ole husbutt went first, muscling his first piece down with no small amount of showboating and an impressive display of gastrointestinal fortitude. I felt confident. I’ve eaten some spicy things in my day, like the time when I went to PF Chang’s at 15 and naively let someone feed me a spoonful of hot mustard. As a kid, bad words got us a mouthful of cayenne. I guess I forgot about how 18 habaneros are the heat equivalent of 15lbs of jalapenos, or how I’m also a gringo mouth by many relatives’ standards. I tore into it, and the flavor was immediately intense, but still delicious. I took another. Every swallow pushed the heat deeper, into my ears and eyes. I couldn’t feel my teeth, and my lips felt like they had kissed a hot fryer.
My brain, in crisis, was there with helpful thoughts for survival, like “Can you get chemical pneumonia from greasy habanero lava?” and “Will our children forgive us for orphaning them over pizza, or should our parents say it was a bike accident? Is this Mormon Jesus smiting us for drinking a beer called Outer Darkness?” At this point, the flesh of my epiglottis noped the hell right out of the whole thing. I was hiccupping the ashes of what was once my stomach lining. Air was not moving in my windpipe at all, just hot pizza steam. That’s what science is here to explain :
“When they reach the tongue, capsaicinoids interact with a special type of protein located on the surface of nerve cells. This protein, called TRPV1, acts a sensor for the cell giving it information about the outside world. Normally, TRPV1 gets turned on by physical heat, like a fire, above 109˚F (43˚C). This signal will turn the nerve cell on to allow it to trigger other nerve cells that will carry the message to the brain that it has to respond to this dangerous temperature (think of it as your neurons playing telephone). When capsaicinoids interact with TRPV1 they also turn the protein on and cause the same signal to be transmitted to the brain into thinking it is being burned even though there is no real heat present.”
Spectacular Server was no stranger to the look on my face, and before I could get a full breath in, I had a scoop of ice cream at my table. That’s what they told me it was, anyway, but I can’t confirm, because that shit tasted like warm mayonnaise. I had lost my ability to gauge the temperature or flavor of anything. I wasn’t sure I was even alive. Foodstuff masochists take note: a bite of the Triple Hab is brilliant strategy for anyone who likes mayonnaise and needs to complete an obscene ice cream challenge as a competitive eater.
Eventually, the feeling of gargling a forest fire subsided, and I accomplished another first: ordering a glass of milk from a bar. I felt warm all over and even just a little bit high, which I’m told is not uncommon. I may not have finished my slice, but unlike Mr. I Ate My Whole Piece, I wasn’t dashing to the commode within the hour either. A few drinks with friends capped the night off for us, because you can best believe nobody’s habanero hands were going to be allowed near any sensitive bits, maybe ever again. Thankfully, my asshole handled it with dignity and grace, and we are again on speaking terms since estrangement after the Western Idaho Fair frybread taco debacle of 2015. My epidermis did not handle it so well- a couple bike rides into Saturday, and my skin was stingling something fierce, but the worst had passed. My baptism by fire into true Boisean status was complete.
Now I’m curious, though. What’s the hottest thing you’ve ever eaten, and how much respect did you lose for yourself in the process? Let’s heal together; sound off in the comments.