Among The Fire-Eaters
Not long ago we were talking about hot and spicy food here. Lo, look what’s in The New Yorker: a Lauren Collins report on the obsession with growing the world’s hottest chili peppers.
And look at this exciting excerpt about the chili fiend whose name is on the hottest pepper in the world — exciting, because he’s right down the road from Your Working Boy!:
Butch T, of the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T, is Butch Taylor, a plumber in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In 2005, Taylor got some Trinidad Scorpion seeds from a guy named Mark in New Jersey, who had got them from a local nursery. Taylor recalled, “When I grew them down here, they just grew unbelievable. I got three plants out of five seeds, and every plant I grew was dedicated to seeds. The first time I tasted it, I just thought, This is the hottest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Taylor kept growing the plants, selecting at each generation for the hottest specimens. He gave the seeds away to chiliheads all over the world, sticking a little label that said “Butch T” at the bottom of each packet, so that absent-minded recipients would be able to keep track of where they had come from. Besides that, he didn’t think much of it. “I didn’t have any money to pay for testing—I didn’t even know how to have them tested at the time,” he told me. “And since I was growing the seeds, not selling them, I couldn’t see the purpose of setting the record.” He learned that his namesake chili was the hottest chili in the world, according to Guinness, the day that the record was announced. The Australians who developed Taylor’s strain into a winner had named it after him. “It took me a while to get my head around it, because I’m a little more shy, unless I’ve been drinking or something,” he recalled. “I thought that was very decent of them.”
How hot are the Butch T peppers? Collins tastes a teeny-tiny morsel:
He had brought a Trinidad Scorpion Butch T in from the field. The pod had a bulbous cap and a tapering tail that recalled the stinger of a wasp. Its skin was pebbly, like the nose of a drinker. It looked as though it had been made of melted wax from the candles at an Italian restaurant.
Taylor took a knife and whittled off a flake no larger than a clove. I put it in my mouth and chewed. The capsaicin hit loud and fast, a cymbal clang of heat. My face flushed. My eyes glassed over and I started pacing the kitchen, as though I could walk off the burn. It took twenty minutes and a can of Dr Pepper to banish the sensation of having a sort of tinnitus of the mouth.
Clearly, one must find this magnificent Mr. Butch Taylor and buy a bottle of his hot sauce. I’ll report back.