Thursday, January 7, 2010
Seppuku Challenge at Buffalo Cantina completed! Why did I do it? A letter from the editor
Dear Good Hurts readers,
I'm not one to try to talk down to an audience, and I'm not one to try to use a hot sauce review blog to lay out intertextual puzzles and connect-the-dots meaning(s) between images and representations of peppers and what it says about life and the universe as we know it.
I will, however, say that the picture I used for an editor photo here does look an awful lot like a complex labyrinth and is fitting for my experience on the night of January 2nd. That's the night I went to Buffalo Cantina in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and completed the Seppeku challenge.
The serrano peppers, fresh habaneros, and pour after pour of fine-ground red pepper is negligible in the face of a (not so) healthy capfull of habanero extract. Think about how delicious vanilla extract smells, but how awful it tastes. Pepper extract is used in commercial pepper sprays and even mace of bear spray. The stuff isn't really meant for consumption.
With a group of 6 friends cheering me on and dozens more concerned back in Iowa, I tore into the toughest physical challenge of my life. 12 wings drenched in killer Seppeku sauce, needing to be completed in 3 mere minutes. After 4 wings I couldn't taste anything. After 7 I couldn't swallow. With tears in my eyes and a burning charred throat, I powered down the final three wings in the last 30 seconds and tipped my chair over in victory. The thrill was short lived, however, as I downed half a gallon of milk and cup after cup of water (note to spice novices: never drink water to relieve pepper pain. It just pushes the spice further across your tongue and offers temporary relief. It's like struggling in quicksand). What followed was a ringing in my ears and horrible agony just beyond the layer of skin I call my face while an uncomfortable silence fell over the restaurant.
The stomach ache afterwards was the worst, though, and for a few minutes I wondered if I would ever really feel OK again. It was a like I had a brick covered in glass dust wedged between my sternum and intestines, simultaneously cutting my innards and blocking the ensuing flow of blood. I never vomited, but I did sleep from 1 to 5 AM, intermittently waking to go into the bathroom in brutal stomach pain. At 5, I realized I wasn't going back to sleep. I had a plane to catch home and needed to be up at 6. But as I watched the sun rise over the small buildings in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and cut ashen lines from the cables of the Verrizano Bridge, I came as close to a reconciliation with mortality as I think I can ever come.
I did the challenge because I wanted to realize my mortal boundaries as best I can in this lifetime. I'm not in good shape, and training for an athletic contest and succeeding might take me a long, long time. But I have a high threshold for pain, and I really pushed it. I would say that completing spicy food eating challenges is fanfare for the average person looking for a rock-star rush: a restaurant cheering you on, an endorphin rush to succeed, and a brutal capsicum-induced crash. That'd be the rock star OD'ing after their big show.
The Good Hurts editorial team (read: my girlfriend) is hard at work on compiling the footage into a magnum opus video. Until that's up, enjoy the sauce reviews and our twitter page.
Happy New Years,