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nikipedia's avatar

What is the appeal of painfully spicy food?

Asked by nikipedia (27531points) March 24th, 2011

I just failed to stop the burrito guy from putting hot sauce on my burrito, and it is drenched in hot sauce so spicy that it is completely inedible. He was not messing around.

I understand wanting to add a little bit of heat to give a dish more dimension and make it more interesting. However, it seems that in many cuisines, the goal is to actually make the food so spicy that people are actually experiencing physical pain. What is the appeal of this?

Also, I understand everyone has different spiciness thresholds, so I am not asking why some people enjoy food that I consider spicy.

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15 Answers

DominicX's avatar

I don’t know. Personally, I’m a big fan of spicy food, I generally choose the hottest salsa options, I love Indian food and all that, but not to the point of torture. I do have a much higher threshold than a lot of people, I’m sure, (though when I was younger, I hated spicy food) but for me, having to drink a sip of ice water after every bite is not enjoyable…

Maybe it’s some kind of masochistic thing? :P

marinelife's avatar

I don’t really know. Even though I spent a year accustoming myself to be able to handle five-star Thai food.

Eating it made my lips feel like they were peeling.

Having accomplished it, I then gave it up and went back to normal spiciness.

wundayatta's avatar

I think a lot of it has to do with what you are used to. My friends said that in Bangkok food was served with dozens of hot chili peppers in every dish. The Thais ate them like they were peanuts. My friends could barely stand one without a gallon of beer.

I don’t think painfully spicy food is appealing to anyone but a very few. I think that some people are used to food that you would consider painfully spicy. They don’t even realize that that much hot sauce would be painful to someone else.

picante's avatar

I’m a big fan of the spicy stuff, though the torturously hot end of the spectrum holds little appeal. Day to day, I simply like the additional dimension of that heat. I have experienced an addictive sensation with this, and I will say that over time, my threshold has changed so that I can tolerate more and more heat. And I’ve had occasions where I literally craved the next bite even though my lips and tongue were burning, my nose was running, etc. On those occasions, it was a bit like an endorphin rush.

WasCy's avatar

Different people have different interpretations of “painfully spicy”, as previous responders have noted implicitly.

Perhaps the burrito guy was just putting on what he (and apparently the majority of his customers) consider “normal” spiciness, and if you ask him he’ll probably tell you, “That’s not very hot. You want hot? I can give you hot!”

I eat wasabi peas by the handful sometimes. I’ve offered them to others, unused to them, and their eyes go as wide as saucers at the first taste. They often can’t finish even a single pea. But they’re not all that hot, I think.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I don’t know…sometimes it can be taken to such extremes. I think it’s a macho guy thing.

Kardamom's avatar

I love hot spicy foods, it gives the taste of the food a whole other dimension in flavor. Plus the spiciness stimulates the feel good endophins.

chocolatechip's avatar

@picante …endorphin rush…

Isn’t that the physiological reason? The burning sensation causes your body to release endorphins, thus making the spiciness a pleasurable experience.

picante's avatar

@chocolatechip, indeed. I lurve that burn!

everephebe's avatar

I like my spicy to make my nose run, not my eyes.

I like slowly increasing my heat threshold, I don’t go in for the spicy punishment. I don’t like spicy food pain, in fact I like just the opposite. Many peppers contain capsaicin which is a mild painkiller and anti-inflammatory, spicy is useful if your are an arthritic or have chronic pain.

Aster's avatar

For me, it just so happens that I love the taste of certain things and they happen to also be hot. Like horseradish. I love the taste of it but I might still love it if it were not so hot. And I think I’d still like jalapenos even if they weren’t hot. if it hurts I don’t eat it.

filmfann's avatar

A friend of mine was quite big on the spiciest of sauces, till he realized that was causing a problem with his toilet habits. Spicy in, spicy out, and the second was more painful than he was willing to deal with.

longtresses's avatar

A few reasons I could think of—

I think spicy is the norm in many cultures. In Thailand, food that isn’t at least mildly spicy is bland and unpalatable. Certain food must be spicy, because that’s just how the dish is supposed to be or it’s not delicious.

Some people try to push their spiciness threshold because they genuinely enjoy the feat, the sweat, and it’s gratifying for them. It gives a little high, kind of parachuting I guess. I do too.

I think it’s also a social thing to be able to eat spicy. Say, if your friends make a trip to this local cuisine with spicy dishes, and you can’t eat spicy, they won’t invite you.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

“Spicy” is just a code word for hot. To me spicy is sprinkling some garlic powed on it or adding grilled onions. Why some people feel that hot stinging feeling on their tongue adds to the meal I will never know. I guess it as something to do with the sensation than adding to the taste.

OKTXGuy's avatar

There is more to food than taste. How it looks and how it smells and the mood that it sets have to be taken into account. What are you going to drink with it? What other foods are paired? All this is important. And of course the culture you come from and your own experiences will dictate what you like and what the limits or extremes are. Personally, I like food a lot hotter than most people. On the other hand I don’t go looking for the hottest peppers or the spiciest curries. No doubt you could do your tongue some serious harm that way. But part of the experience of eating certain foods is what we generally refer to as the heat. I am familiar with the Scoville Scale and the bragging rights of tasting the upper limits. (I’ve reached Ghost Pepper but no higher and probably won’t.) It isn’t a macho thing because I don’t need to impress an audience. I like what I like. To be good, some foods should hurt a little. Masochistic? I don’t really think so but if that makes it easy for some people to understand then go ahead and say I’m masochistic. But put a little more Cayenne in the Camerones Diablo, por favor.

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