A test of bravery or sheer craziness?
What is it about some men (people really, but in my particular experience it was all males) and the need to prove they can eat the hottest of foods without blinking an eye? The following is a scene witnessed a few times in my life, but nothing will ever match that first time it occurred.
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Several years back we used to frequently gather at a friends' home. One night a group of approximately six of us were sitting around the kitchen table having a few drinks and laughs. Suddenly, my friend's husband comes over with some recently picked jalapeno and habanero peppers from his impressive garden. A few of us looked on curiously at what was about to unfold but, being a bit unsure, we continued our discussion.
As we're giggling over the stories and jokes being told, out of the corner of my eye I see my friend's hubby and another guy each pop one of the hot peppers into their mouths. It turns out these two men were having a private little contest to see who could eat the pepper without being the first to flinch.
After a few moments, the rest of the table caught on to what was going on and conversation came to a standstill as we watched in awe as their two faces turned pink, then transformed into a deep red; eventually, they finally took on a slight purplish tint. Finally, one of them gasped and grabbed a beer to drown out the heat, then begged for a glass of water; the other guy also finally called "uncle" and he too took on a beer chaser.
The expressions on their faces as this was occurring was so darned funny! They acted so brave, while inside it was clear they were in agony. The rest of us, while awed and full of disbelief, couldn't help but burst out laughing at their quandary. We didn't feel too badly though because the two of them brought it on themselves.
The next thing I know, they're at it again, but this time another guy decided to join the fun. The rules changed; they decided the first one to take a drink loses. The third friend takes a bite and tries really hard to disguise the fire so obviously burning in his mouth, but he's failing miserably. Yet, he forges ahead and takes the next bite despite his pain.
Tears are streaming down his cheeks and once again he takes yet another chomp of the pepper. The first two look at each other with a knowing nod, then join back in; their tactic was different, they opt to eat the full pepper at once. Suddenly, we're sitting there watching three grown men gasping for breath, turning red, and crying their eyes out; subsequently we watched their jaws clench in pain as each desperately strove to "win."
As stubborn as they all were, the third guy finally gives in and chugs down a full glass of water, which he can barely drink. The tears are coming hard and fast by now. The second two finally relent and each chug down another drink.
To this day, while not really understanding the why of this "contest", admittedly, it was rather funny, but I couldn't help but question if it was pure bravery or sheer stupidity. Later on, out of bizarre curiosity, I took a piece of pepper and just dabbed my tongue on it, and boy was it hot! To this day I'll never understand how they were able to sit there chewing on these extremely hot peppers, trying to act nonchalant.
That evening was the start of a routine ritual -- at least for a time. Each time, as more peppers came into maturity, the guys would sit around that same kitchen table, each trying to outdo the other. What was even more amazing is eventually the gardener's little girl joined these contests.
Then again, she was eating raw onions as a toddler - definitely her father's daughter.