The insider's scoop on food, travel & southern culture
What is it that draws us to hot and spicy foods?
Let’s take hot wings, for instance (and I mean the hot ones). The first bite brings a little tingling to the lips, and then before you know it, your whole mouth’s on fire. By the time you’re halfway through the basket, you’re breaking a sweat and blinking back tears. But in spite of the pain, you feel energized! It’s a rush! It’s hot and flavorful! You’ve lost all feeling in your tongue.
So why endure all the pain? As a veteran of fiery foods, I can give you the science behind it: It’s the ‘burn’ of spicy foods that tricks our brains into releasing pain-relieving endorphins. And it’s the feel-good endorphins, ladies and gentlemen, that give you the rush!
Having grown up in Louisiana, my husband and I are no strangers to heat and spice in our food. My childhood staples included Crystal and Tobasco, which are about as basic to the diet as bread and water. My husband often talks about his summers spent in Abbeville and the hot crawfish tamales from Black’s Oyster Bar—the perfect combination of Louisiana flavor and heat. He talks about those scorching tamales as some of his fondest memories… which may have something to do with a little competition he’s putting on this weekend.
There will most certainly be a Super Bowl party going down at Bayou Bakery on Sunday. While our beloved Saints didn’t make it to the big game this year, there’s no forgetting that the Super Bowl is in New Orleans, which gives us just as much reason to celebrate! My husband David Guas (most people know him as ‘Chef’) is hosting the ‘Holy Hell’ Hot Sauce Super Challenge, where he’s daring guests to devour an entire plate of his crawfish tamales—inspired by the ones down in Louisiana that almost took his taste buds. Although he’s decided to amp them up a little.
In case you’re doubting their potency, David said he’ll be dousing the tamales in his ‘Holy Hell’ Trinity Sauce, along with local Ghost Chile Hot Sauce from Henry Family Farm (Shenandoah Valley, Virginia). The Ghost Chile Hot Sauce is made from the Naga Jolokia chili pepper, which is among the hottest in the world (1,000,000+ Scoville Units). The Henry Family recommends using “just a dab,” but I have a feeling David will be a little more generous!
Anyone who finishes the fiery plate will have their cost waived and will be awarded ‘bronze’ trophy (a.k.a. a pitcher full of cold Abita beer to ease their scorching tongues). Anyone who thinks they have what it takes is a contestant, and everyone else is welcome to drop by for the festivities. They’ll be serving up the drinks in souvenir Mardi Gras cups (and I might just bring some beads to toss). Besides, I bet you’ve never seen tamales make a grown man cry.
Hope to see you this weekend. The Super Bowl starts at 6:30 p.m., and we’ll have plenty of food, drinks and endorphins to go around!