Thursday, June 9, 2022

The Legend Of The Ghost Pepper, Revisited

In this week's episode of my band's podcast Second Player Speaks, we reminisce about the time almost ten years ago we went to local burger now-chain Killer Burger and attempted to eat their ghost pepper burger. I remembered that I had written a blog post about the experience, so for those of you who missed it or don't remember, I am republishing it today for your reading schadenfreude.*
Here's the confession of the day: I thought I was prepared for the "Marine" at local burger joint Killer Burger.

I love spicy food. I ask for extra jalapenos on my tuna sandwiches; I eat kim chee like candy; I pour sriracha sauce on my morning waffles. Okay, not really the last one, but you get the idea.

But this...this was not spicy. This was something totally different.

At Second Player Score practice one day, for some reason we started talking about ghost peppers. I'd never tried them before, but the word was that they were incredibly hot. I thought, "Mm, sounds good." So when, a week or so later, I saw an article in the paper about Killer Burger that mentioned their "Marine," a burger that contains ghost peppers, I thought, "Hey, we should try that!" So we put it down on the calendar as something fun we could do one day after practice. It even turned into an official band event of sorts, with band members' relations planning to bring cameras and such.

Weeks went by, and the event kept getting postponed by schedule conflicts and last-minute show opportunities. In the interim, I noted that Killer Burger makes you sign a waiver before you eat the burger, which I thought was a brilliant marketing move. "Oo, a waiver, how scary!" I also spent the time ratcheting up my Tabasco consumption, to the point where it hardly registered a tingle on my tongue. I was going to be ready for this.

Anyway, the big day finally arrived. We got there and saw the warning on the hand-written menu above the registers: "The Marine Hot! - DON'T ORDER THIS!!" I smirked. The cashier tried to talk us out of ordering it. I smirked again as I reflected on the genius business tactic of telling your customers not to buy your product. People will always do what you tell them not to do.

Ten minutes and a signed waiver later, they brought the burgers out with the same fanfare reserved for birthdays at chain restaurants. People looked at us like we were nuts. I thought, "Okay, seriously? Come on now, it's a spicy burger. Everybody relax."

I decided to start by dipping a french fry in their "lava sauce," which also apparently contains ghost peppers. THIS WAS A BIG MISTAKE. The moment it hit my mouth, I could tell that this was no ordinary kind of spicy. You know how, when you're eating spicy food, the heat seems to accumulate over time? Well, there was no "time" involved here. This was an entire Thai-green-curry-with-the-"hot"-option-reaction condensed into a single second.

And it got worse from there. My eyes started to water uncontrollably as I tried to remain calm. My lips were on fire, but my mouth and head weren't - instead, they were on something beyond fire; it was like they had been transported to some kind of unholy realm of torture where someone was inserting power saw blades into my skull.

And it wasn't just my facial region feeling the wrath, my stomach was a helpless victim as well.

Stomach: I'm hungry, isn't it dinner time?
Stomach: Okay, great, here comes something.
Stomach: Whoopee, it's a french fry. Can't you do better than that? Wait, it's covered in some kind of sauce that -

And mind you, I hadn't even started eating the burger yet. Through my haze of agony I could barely make out some kid at a nearby table egging us on, saying things like "C'mon, it's like Man Vs. Food!" I figured, okay, I have to at least take one bite of this thing. THIS WAS A BIG MISTAKE.

After a tiny bite, I was done. The pain and nausea increased exponentially until I was in a Homer-Simpson-Guatemalan-Insanity-Pepper-like state of psychosis. All I could do was sit there, staring into space, as my intestines quickly shriveled up and turned into dust. The kid at the nearby table was now saying things like "blrkjkg alijoit ghlkj ahiogh," or at least that's what it sounded like to me.

And it wasn't over. After feeling like I had recovered somewhat, more waves of pain ensued. This evil cycle continued for about an hour afterwards before I was finally confident that I had escaped from the ghost pepper dungeon.

So yeah, they weren't kidding about the waiver.

Once coherency had returned, I did some research and found out that the ghost pepper, or Naga Bhut Jolokia, is roughly TWO HUNDRED TIMES hotter than Tabasco sauce. And that it can be used as a weapon. Well, duh.

I thought I could handle spicy foods. Turns out I had absolutely no idea.

Originally published 9/17/2012

* Pleasure derived from someone else's misfortune

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