I’ve often said that the chilehead world contains some of the nicest people on the planet; and at times, we’re like a big, extended family that expands across the country and extends around the globe. I stand by that statement, and I’m one of the luckiest and most blessed folks for being able to get into an industry with so many quality men and women that often seem like brothers and sisters to me. Getting together at fiery foods events can actually seem like family reunions!
But there are the few that nearly ruin it for me. There are people I’ve run across my travels and ones who have contacted and communicated with me over the years that range from mildly irritating to downright have me proclaiming, “off with their heads!”. The following is a compilation of the many goofy and annoying types of people who I have encountered over the years.
Before I get into the list, I want you to take this thought as you read this whole blog post: I love receiving feedback from all sorts of people! I wholeheartedly welcome constructive criticism, including ones that really challenge me and that help me become a better blogger, podcaster and an overall better person. So if you have something to say, by all means, feel free to contact me.
The Macho Chile Challenger
These unlearned dudes are the ones who think that being a chilehead means to eat only the hottest of the super-hot chile peppers or pepper extracts on a daily basis, and if you’re not up on their full-throttle level, then you’re instantly labeled a pussy. They’re usually fairly new chileheads with the mentality of a middle school bully and an IQ that would make Forrest Gump look like a Rhodes Scholar.
Their correspondence with me goes something like, “Hey Scott, are you up for the ass-blaster-burner challenge? This sauce/these peppers are [fill in the blank with inflated Scoville] and are not for the weak! Are you a mouse, or are you a real man????”
What these novices don’t realize is that I’ve tasted thousands of sauces and have eaten the hottest of the hot already. I’ve grown in my garden and cooked with many of the world’s hottest chiles, and have consumed many on camera – including Jolokias, Scorpions and the current world’s hottest Carolina Reaper. I’ve eaten far more extract sauces than I’ve cared for in my life (by the way…extract is freaking nasty tasting!), which have included 2 million SHU, 3 million SHU, 4 million SHU, 5 million SHU, 6 million SHU, 7 million SHU, and even 11 million SHU varieties. I’ve placed pure 16 million SHU capsaicin in my mouth and digested it three times. I’ve entered numerous spicy eating contests – some to great success and others to failure – and have endured stomach cramping and intense diarrhea with relative composure that have left bigger and presumably tougher men curled up in a fetal position and writhing in a tear-flooded pain.
Bottom line is, I don’t need to do anything to prove myself. At the risk of sounding conceited, I’ve graduated from that school of thought years ago. Yes, I’m into fiery foods for the intense heat, but flavor is always going to trump fire every single time. If you find yourself to be in the class of the Macho Chile Challenger, I advice you to expand your horizons a bit and see what tastes good as opposed to trying to act like chewing down 5 scorpions in a row will somehow make your tiny dick grow bigger.
As an aside, one of the few people who could regularly eat the hottest of the hot AND be very knowledgeable and appreciate great flavor is my friend Steve “The Machine” Smallwood. He’s won the eating contests and has eaten eight Bhut Jolokias AND eight Trinidad Scorpion Butch Ts within a 60-minute period, but is one of the humblest and sweetest guys you’d ever want to meet. Steve loves to converse about great-tasting sauces and seasonings without looking down on you for not having his heat tolerance level.
People Who Think I Sell Products
For the life of me I cannot fathom the ignorance of people who take a quick look at my website and think that somehow I sell the products that I review. The most egregious examples would be a handful of spicy potato chip reviews I did a few years back. Not only did I get emails requesting to purchase the product, but phone calls…in upwards of being on a weekly basis.
If really makes me wonder what type of shredded logic these ignoramuses follow. Do they even understand how to use a website? Can they comprehend the separation between news, third party objective reviews, advertising and ownership of content? Probably not.
Do they read an article about a new iPhone release in the technology section of cnn.com and then email or call up CNN with their credit cards in hand requesting to buy the new smartphones? Do they see a Pizza Hut commercial running during their local news, and promptly call up the TV station wanting to order a large thin crust with pepperoni, mushrooms and extra cheese?
And it wasn’t just potato chip reviews. I’ve gotten multiple requests each for chile pepper seeds, pepper plants, BBQ grills, hot sauces. They even call me up or write to me as if I’m one of the PEOPLE I’ve interviewed over the course of 5+ years on the website (I’ve seriously picked up the phone and had people ask me, “yes, is this Blair Lazar?” and then ask me questions about “my” Death Sauce).
I truly think it’s these low intelligence lunkheads who are keeping our current politicians in office and provide the worst caliber of “reality TV” with enough ratings to stay on the air. I truly lament for our future if these folks are able to have any influence in society.
Now here’s a group who are actually full of good folks. They are hallmarked by well-meaning, well-intentioned people, but they choose to remain in the dark for the most part when it comes to hot sauce brands and flavors. Their chilehead battle cry has proud mentions of Tabasco, Frank’s, Texas Pete, Huy Fong Sriracha or any of the nationally-known and available Louisiana style hot sauce found at 100,000 stores nationwide, and they paraphrase Frank’s catchphrase, “I put that s*@t on everything!” Or if they’re craving super heat, it’s all about Blair’s, Dave’s Insanity or possibly Mad Dog 357, and…not really anything else.
These fine hot sauce fans aren’t really doing anything wrong. There’s no snobbery or condescension coming from me. Honestly. If those kinds of products please their taste buds, then more power to them. And I actually like to often encounter these people, as it gives an opportunity to evangelize and to introduce folks to some really great flavored products from artists like CaJohn’s, Ring of Fire, Race City Sauce Works, Heartbreaking Dawns, and loads of others. And once they try some sauces from said taste geniuses, it’s truly like a “light bulb turning on” moment and they will no longer settle for the run-of-the-mill no longer.
The Fiery Foods Industry Know-It-All
We go from the generally “good guy” Naive Newbie to the mucho cabrons of the self-proclaimed spicy foods biz “experts”.
These irritating individuals start off often by being well-spoken, intelligent-sounding guys who are starting a hot sauce, seed selling, or another miscellaneous type of business, but once they’re armed with their scant three-to-six months of experience they think they have it all figured out. Food regulations and food safety? They don’t need anyone’s advice. Hot sauce veterans warning them of mistakes? Don’t bother them, because their business plan of bottling sauces in their home kitchen will lead them to millions!
They will frequently bicker and fight online, very often on the verge of becoming trollish. They may even gather together a handful of (very loud and vocal) fanatics and supporters along the way, but they will almost always disappear into obscurity within two years. These know-it-alls will rarely become humble enough for redemption.
Mr. Scoville Mouth
This character is typified by overconfidence and subjectivity in thinking that by tasting two different hot sauces or two different chile peppers, he can not only instantly tell which one is hotter, but also give an accurate measurement of Scoville Heat Units contained within.
My Scoville Scale Chart is a big draw to my website, and naturally it brings in fiery foods fans who believe their tongue is nearly as dependable a gauge on spiciness as HPLC testing is; and sometimes, even more so. They will argue that, “there is no way [fill in the blank] sauce is ranks higher on the Scoville Scale than [another fill in the blank product]! I can eat it all day long and not feel anywhere close to the burn of the second one!”
I’m not going to get into the inaccuracy of testing the SHU of hot sauces here (in all actuality, it’s extremely difficult to get anything close to perfect), the fact remains that there are a number of factors that can mess with your tongue and make you think that a hot sauce can be more spicy or less spicy, including:
- The amount of vinegar or garlic present can make a sauce seem brighter and “hotter”, or things like sugars and fruits which can give the illusion of making a sauce seem milder.
- The types of peppers used
- The way a chile’s heat is delayed; some hit your tongue immediately, while others hot the back of the mouth or throat
- If the chile’s heat dissipates or if it lingers
- The residual build-up of heat, especially if the burn lingers
The fact is, the human mouth is in no way able to measure SHUs with any realism.
The Self-Appointed Chile Pepper Expert
This one is somewhat related to the aforementioned Mr. Scoville Mouth, but it’s their dubious knowledge of chile peppers that singles their kind out.
The Self-Appointed Chile Pepper Expert will grow an extensive array of super-hot peppers in their backyards and gardens, and supposedly know of ALL the various strains and varieties and crosses and hybrids. Do they have a Super Chocolate Jolokiscorpionanero Brain Strain version 92B? Yes siree, you betcha! And they will authoritatively tell you that it it’s definitely hotter than the Super Peach Jolokiscorpionanero Brain Strain version 92B. Or is it version 92A? Well, whatever the case, they’ll act like it’s the next big thing AND act as if it has any real difference between other nearly identical capsicum chineses.
The laughable kicker is that if you take ten of these chile pepper fanatics, blindfolded them, and fed them pieces of some of these unstable strains and varieties (with ample recovery time and dairy products to sooth the burn, of course), nine out of ten probably couldn’t even tell you the difference either in taste or heat level between them. How about that for a real chile pepper challenge?
The Loose Cannon AKA the Bad Apple
Think of this type as “trolls on steroids”. There aren’t many of them, but the few that have risen to prominence range from prolific posters on message boards to mini-chilehead celebrities. They exhibit traits of the other annoying chilehead types, such as the Self-Appointed Chile Pepper Expert, the Fiery Foods Industry Know-It-All, and the Macho Chile Challenger, yet they are so much more than the sum of their irritating parts.
When it comes to mental faculties, they are all over the map; a few have considerable smarts and business savvy, yet even more are of the ilk of “there’s something not right up there”.
But there are a few things they have in common. One, they are classless, crass, immature, and overly combative. They say or type things out online without giving a single thought what the repercussions might be. Two, each one of these Bad Apples is definitely not a “people person”, and wear a figurative “does not play well with others” sign around their neck from their actions. Drama, friction and fighting seem to follow these attention whores where ever they go. Three, they’ve amassed a small army of supporters along the way, and these lunkhead followers are only there for the Loose Cannon’s jackass-style antics.
Just like in any large group of fine folks, there’s going to be a bad apple or two. The way to throw out the ones with really rotten spots will be to simply ignore them, and to adopt the attitude of “don’t feed the trolls”. Because of the Loose Cannon’s many followers, it’s easier said than done. However, I believe that some people see this type’s relative lack of talent and see them for the immature and abrasive individuals that they really are, they’ll fade away eventually.
What do YOU think?
What is your thoughts on these? Did I fail to mention any other annoying types of losers that murk up the waters of the chilehead world? Do you think I’m dead wrong? Tell me in the comments below.