That lie we all promise ourselves. I do remember reciting it numerous times in my youth - usually into the echo of a porcelain toilet bowl - after a night of too much alcohol. It’s been a while since I uttered those words aloud. Well, until Sunday; the morning after my Wingaddicts partners and I were judges at the Hudson Valley Wing Festival in Poughkeepsie, NY.
The last category to judge was “Hottest Wings” and there were two titans who were going toe to toe. Angry Uncle Mike’s was determined this year to defeat the eight-time reigning champion, AJ’s Cafe out of Wappingers Falls.
Angry Uncle Mike was first up. Personally, he was anything but angry. You’d expect an evil character with face tattoos and a wicked grimace, but Mike was charming and friendly and was manning the booth with his family. His sauce, “7th Circle of Hell” lived up to that billing with its combination of chipotle, habanero, Trinidad scorpion and Carolina reaper peppers. Not representing a wing joint, Angry Uncle Mike's is actually a bottled artisan hot sauce company.
On the other side of the convention center floor, owner John Joy and the crew at AJ’s didn’t exactly fit the image of Satan either. They were also friendly and hospitable. That is, until they started to plate our wings, aptly named "Euthanasia." They were actually laughing as they pulled out the “special” sauce bottle for the judges, and poured on an extra pool just for us.
“You should try it on the end of a toothpick,” said one passer by. “My tongue didn’t work normally for four days,” said another bystander. “An ambulance had to come get a lady earlier,” warned another. We just smiled and nodded as the three of us signed a waiver releasing them from any responsibility should we die on the spot.
Wings up! At first I was thinking, “hmm, this isn’t going to be so bad.” It took almost a full minute before the burning began. And it built. And it built. Icy cold milk seemed to make it hotter. Would it ever stop? I honestly lost track of my senses for a bit and needed to go sit down. My partners, Doni the Cleaner and Wingchef Ryan weren't that much better off.
When we eat things like Carolina Reapers and Trinidad Scorpion peppers and other various spicy foods, the peppers themselves aren’t actually hot. It’s a chemical called capsaicin in the peppers (measured in Scoville units) which binds to a sensor in our mouth called "vanilloid receptor 1," which tricks our brain into thinking that we are literally on fire. Next thermogenesis occurs, our body temperature begins to increase and we begin to sweat. This amazing brain of our ours further reacts by activating our mucous membranes and our nose starts to run, all to flush out the imaginary invader. Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s all in your head?” Haha. Well not so fast.
We eventually get relief from the (not so) imaginary burning. But the fun is just beginning.
The same vanilloid receptor in our mouth is also present in the walls of our intestines. Soon (normally the morning after) we get the thrill of stomach cramps, intestinal cramps and the painful excretion of bodily fluids. “Honey, do we have any Charmin in the freezer?”
But wait! Just when you think you’ve destroyed your stomach lining, consider that there’s actually a “silver” lining.
While our brain is fending off whatever tripped the alarm, it releases endorphins similar to a runner’s high. It elevates our heart rate, blood flow and circulation also speeding up our metabolism. Hmmm. Scientists also say that the effects of capsaicin also increase our lifespan!
I feel better already!
Tommy Wyatt is co-founder of Wingaddicts and author of this “Under the Wingfluence" blog. He can be reached directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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