Hot Hot Hot
Lauren Collins recent New Yorker article "Fire-Eaters: The Search for the Hottest Chili" reminds me of the fabulous documentary King of Kong for several reasons:
1) breeding the hottest chilis and trying to set video game records are both exclusively male pastimes . . . and there's a strange machismo attached to both projects;
2) Scoville units and professional Donkey Kong scores are mathematically similar (in the millions) and seem to be set at a similar pace;
3) it is difficult to measure who or what is the best, as there is sometimes a discrepancy between high scores and averages (this is obvious with gamers -- some guys do well all the time, but it's always possible for someone to have the game of his life . . . but it's also true with chili peppers, the heat index of the same variety of pepper can vary by hundreds of thousands of Scoville units);
4) both the universe of the chilihead and the universe of the Donkey King professional contain lots of conflict, infighting, trash talking, good guys and bad guys, and the documentary and the article certainly aren't comprehensive -- they only capture a tiny sliver of an obscure and rich world;
5) Billy Mitchell -- the Darth Vader-esque villain of King of Kong -- has his own line of hot sauces, called "Rickey's World Famous Sauces";
6) neither the documentary nor the article mention me, though I was damn good at the Intellivision game Night Stalker, and -- on the pepper front-- late one night back in 1993 (before any of these ultra-hot peppers were bred) when we were dropping off my friend Mose -- whose father owned a nursery -- he handed me a pepper which he claimed was one of the hottest in the world . . . I think he said it was a Thai hot pepper (which actually isn't that high on the scale pictured above) and this was after a night of drinking and he dared me to eat it, and so I did, but I didn't give him the satisfaction of seeing me "burned," instead I jumped back in the car (which my friend Rob was driving) and spent the ride home crying, salivating, and spitting golf ball sized hunks of phlegm out the window.