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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 [1].

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.


11 Comments (Open | Close)

11 Comments To "Among The Fire-Eaters"

#1 Comment By jaybird On November 4, 2013 @ 12:40 pm

How is eating peppers so hot that they make you vomit not as intrinsically disordered and divorced from the proper teleology of eating as BDSM is from the proper teleology of sex?

[NFR: I wouldn’t eat peppers that made me vomit. That is repulsive. — RD]

#2 Comment By CatherineNY On November 4, 2013 @ 12:52 pm

I am proud to note that Butch got his pepper seeds from a guy in New Jersey.

#3 Comment By alcogito On November 4, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

I just don’t get the appeal of eating something that makes it impossible to taste anything else for an hour. But then again, maybe it’s just my Irish-English, Pacific NW heritage.

#4 Comment By Charles Cosimano On November 4, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

He should have had a lassi ready instead of Dr. Pepper. Rice works well in cutting spices too.

On the other hand, think of those peppers, chocolate covered, to give to parents of trick or treaters. Not the kids, they get regular candy, but to the parents ferrying them around.

#5 Comment By Shawn On November 4, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

We all know what happens when you eat a pepper grown in a Guatemalan prison for the criminally insane:

#6 Comment By jaybird On November 4, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

NFR: I wouldn’t eat peppers that made me vomit. That is repulsive. — RD

But that’s what happens in a lot of these “hot-pepper enthusiast” videos mentioned in the article.


So, I guess we can put you down in the “mildly hot pepper/light bondage” kosher column? Just trying to figure out where the boundaries are.

#7 Comment By Mr. Patrick On November 4, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

I want these peppers. They offend stoics and epicureans alike. And they offer something to rebuild the economy of South Louisiana on, too: Becoming what Northern Cali is to dope, but with chili. New Iberia is cranking out complacent kid stuff and tourist kitsch. They need competition against upstarts with real fire in the belly.

#8 Comment By Brett R. On November 4, 2013 @ 7:54 pm

With hot peppers like that, it’s not the vomiting that scares me, it’s the, um, next day. How do you mega-hot food enthusiasts deal with THAT discomfort, if I may gently ask?

[NFR: Ungently. — RD]

#9 Comment By Molly On November 4, 2013 @ 8:43 pm

Thanks for getting me addicted to those TJs Thai lime chili cashews. I really needed a new food to avoid……

#10 Comment By Brett R. On November 4, 2013 @ 11:49 pm

Rod, you might appreciate [3] on this list.

#11 Comment By Andrea On November 5, 2013 @ 1:34 pm

There seems something a little masochistic about eating hot peppers to me. But I have a bland Scandinavian-American stomach. Salt and pepper is about all I need.