Some like it hot

By Claudette D'Cruz

Some like it hot

 

I like to think spicy food is a little like love – seeking pleasure but paying in pain! We enjoy the spice experience, but it makes us feel our insides are burning. And did you know that eating too many of the world’s hottest chillies could even provoke seizures? Hot stuff!

So why do we do it? Scientists have been scratching their heads over the chilli conundrum for some time, with many concluding that we enjoy eating spicy food because the pleasure and aversion parts of our brain are closely connected. It’s like an edible love-hate relationship that the brain and body can’t resist!

Another, and quite interesting, theory is that the burning sensation experienced when eating chilli triggers some innate sense of comfort. After all, warmth, heat and fire have been sources of survival for as long as humans have walked the earth.

And then of course there is our body’s instinctive reaction to pain: chillies stimulate the nerves that feel pain, so the body releases a dose of happy chemicals (endorphins) and we immediately feel wonderful. No wonder curry night is everyone’s favourite day of the week!

Although most people like spicy food, the degrees of heat which different eaters can tolerate – and enjoy – varies greatly. Scientists argue over whether this is because some people are born with less sensitive pain receptors – and thus can take it hot – or whether anyone eating enough hot food can gradually de-sensitise the nerves.

Perhaps you can push the chilli threshold? Only the brave would want to try…and have a glass of milk handy, as it’s one of the best things for dousing the heat! (Trivia moment: milk is better than water because capsaicin, the hot bit in chilli, doesn’t dissolve in water but does dissolve in fat! Olive oil is effective but less appetising to drink…).

There are many that chase hotter and hotter when it comes to chillies. You may have heard of the ghost chilli (or Bhut Jolokia to give it the official name), which is known as one of the world’s hottest chillies. This beastly man-made creation is reputed to be 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce, and hits 1 million on the Scoville heat units rating system (the rating system for chilli heat).

While it is man’s interference that makes our modern chillies so extreme in their heat, chillies have always grown with a natural fiery kick. Why? Scientists believe this member of the capsicum family developed their heat as a way of fighting off harmful microbes and scaring away mammals who stop for a bite. It didn’t work so well scaring off the humans..

Why don’t you try experimenting with your own pleasure-pain threshold? The spice blends that No Worries Curries supply vary in their heat, and all our packs come with a heat rating so you know what level of pain sensation you will be in for! Why not try moving up the scale and seeing how your taste buds and body reacts to the fiery sensations? You might find you enjoy it hotter than you realised!

Start with a mild Kerala veggie stew or creamy kofta curry, and move on to a medium Malawani chicken or perhaps a Kashmiri Lamb (rogan josh). When you are feeling brave, move onto the hot curries: the pork vindaloo is popular, or a Mangalorean beef might be more your thing? Of course the different combination of spices will also have an effect on the flavour, but you will certainly be moving up the heat scale. How does your tongue cope? Email us and share your findings!

A love of spice is just another of our very human quirks, and another reason to make curry a regular part of your weekly menu. Why resist the joy that comes with the burn? Why not inject some physiological happiness into your body after a long day? Treat yourself to a curry and bask in the warm glow of heat and pleasure! At least curry won’t break your heart – you’re on your own when it comes to love…