So, I went Japanese. One day on a dare, I ate a Japanese red pepper, the kind you can find with other spices in the “ethnic” foods section at most grocery stores. I was hooked. The “chile Japonés” is found in many Asian foods and are used to make my favorite red hot sauce, but I prefer them dry. I started to buy packets and stash them away in case of a jalapeño emergency.
Over time, I began to eat them in non-emergency situations. I started craving them with everything and found that their consistency could not be matched by the unreliable jalapeño. It was like going from a Chevy Nova to a Nissan Sentra.
Then one day I stopped buying jalapeños altogether. Yes, I stopped buying Mexican! Or, are they New Mexican? Anyway.
The whole experience made me realize I was hooked on peppers. I even dip them like a chip into a special mix of chile powder and salt for extra flavor. My infant son stares at me when I eat, something I used to do to my abuelo when I was a kid. I would watch him eat dinner after a long day of hard work in the fields. He would savor his peppers more than the meal itself. Maybe this is why I enjoy peppers so much and what got me eating them at an early age. But why am I not able to slow down my consumption as I age? Even when I’m at the point of dripping sweat and hiccupping almost violently?
Because I am apparently high.
At least according to experts at the New Mexico State University Chile Pepper Institute. Yes, one really exists. (And why am I just hearing about this research now? Imagine the career I could have had. The long hours in the lab, sneaking Tecates in my lab coat to help with my research. I would have worked for free!) Sorry, I digress. I’m eating hot peppers as I write.
Scientists have determined that one of the fastest and most powerful ways to release endorphins into our brains is to eat hot peppers. They can alter our state of consciousness. I knew it!
So, that Simpsons episode when Homer eats all of those Guatemalan “insanity peppers” and goes off on his own spiritual journey is partially based on fact.
Years ago, someone told me that peppers could make you hallucinate if you ate enough of them in succession over a sustained time period. I didn’t believe it, but was also not satisfied with taking my pepper source for his word. I decided to conduct my own scientific research and convinced a couple of friends to go along. We collected a peck of … well, a bunch of peppers and began to eat one after another – different kinds, too.
In the end, I’m not sure how much of the “buzz” we caught could be attributed to the peppers as much as the Tecates that accompanied our experiment. Either way, we experienced a natural high, the kind my grandfather must have really enjoyed – with a little help from some cerveza.