Psychologist Paul Rozin suggested that eating spicy chillies had the same effect on the mind as the thrill of a rollercoaster ride. Part of the brain is experiencing a pain or danger sensation while another part knows that there is no real risk and enjoys the ride. Capsaicin convinces your body that it is experiencing real burning and releases endorphins. The brain then associates the capsaicin burn with the rush of endorphins and so like a culinary twist on a Pavlovian experiment, spiciness brings delight to the world of the eater. This is why you feel different after the first bite of a spicy meal and after the last bite. By the end of it you’re “chilli drunk” (that’s not a real term but I’m hoping it catches on). This is also why you can actually train yourself to like spicy food. So let’s say you want to do some chilli training then — work those Habanero hamstrings, do some peppery pull ups — where is one to start? Dive into the first spice shop or market stall you see and snap up every red pepper in sight and spend your days panting and sweating until your body acclimatises? Well, I’m not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do but I do have an alternative.
Hop, Burns & Black is a shop specialising in hot sauces, craft ales and vinyl records. Three of most important mind-altering substances, you might say. They keep around 100 hot sauces at any one time.
You could start with Burning Desire’s Burning Indulgence Mango & Habanero hot sauce. A sweet, fruity hot sauce with a little kick on the end. The mango and habanero compliment each other in a way that might work well with everything from seafood to ice-cream. Proof that while some hot sauces will blow your brains out, others are tender, gentle, loving. It hits around 100,000 on the Scoville scale, the unit used to measure spiciness.
Brother Bru Bru’s African Hot Pepper Sauce takes the habanero a couple of steps up. The memorably named Professor Phadtpounder’s Colon Cleaner hot sauce uses Scotch Bonnets with the mustardy Bajan to make a kind of chilli chutney. Hot Headz Naga & Chipotle Pepper Sauce uses the vicious Naga chilli which is notorious for really grabbing on and not letting go.
Tubby Tom’s Scorpion Slammer hot sauce hits around 1,300,000 to 2,000,000 on the Scoville scale, almost the rating of pepper spray. It uses the Trinidad Scorpion chilli which was up until recently considered the spiciest chilli on the planet. It is slightly sweet and has a heat that will follow you home.
After the initial panting and panicked moans, you do settle into a delicious state of euphoria. Everything tastes perfect long after you’ve finished. Your body temperature stabilises and you feel the effect of the endorphins, slowly making their way around your brain, changing the way you see the world….well, the way you taste spiciness anyway.
Hop, Burns & Black can be found at 38 East Dulwich Road SE22 9AX. In addition to providing hot sauces, craft beers and records, they also host a variety of events from cheese tastings to spicy chilli karaoke. For more information go to: www.hopburnsblack.co.uk