HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >

Discussion

The Million Dollar Question

So.......
I'm making my soy and wasabi dipping sauce for my smoked salmon pinwheels and, realizing that I had quite a bit of wasabi to soy sauce, I decided to dip my finger and give it a test. Seconds later my eyes are watering, my sinuses feel violated, I'm slamming my hand on the counter gasping for air. PERFECT!!!! And back in my finger went. Repeat.
All I can think about is my sister asking "How can you enjoy that??"

So.......
Why is it that we love foods that are hot or powerfull when we tear up, sweat and generally have the type of reaction as stated above.

DT

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. One explanation is that really spicy foods release endorphins in the brain that make us feel that we are on a natural high.

    2 Replies
    1. re: breadbox

      On a less scientific note, maybe it makes you feel alive? And glad to be able to feel all those wonderful/terrible sensations?

      I love spicy food, but not usually to where I tear up...just to the point of gasping for air and searching frantically for milk.

      1. re: breadbox

        Endorphins are actually opiate-like chemicals. It's the body's natural pain killer. Their release into the bloodsteam from the endocrine (glandular) system happens whenever the body perceives it is under physical attack.

      2. i think it's b/c it triggers physical feelings that we don't normally have (and that we cannot achieve any other way) - and so it's fun. and it's safe - you know it will subside . . . in time.

        1. I love this question! I did some research with food and emotions in college. Sensations and other emotions that might seem negative can actually be pleasurable. The best massage teeters between pain and pleasure. The best roller-coaster is scary as well as thrilling. Who hasn't enjoyed a tear-jerking movie? And disgusting Garbage Pail Kids were a huge fad in the 80s. People report that a negative stimulus is the most pleasureable when its intensity is right up to the point where they can't stand it it anymore, but the experience instantly becomes unpleasant the moment it crosses that threshhold (just like MeAndroo reports). That's why you love your wasabi hot hot HOT. You want it as hot as you can get it while still being able to stand it. Humans are the only animal we know of that experience pleasure from a negative stimulus. Dogs will not eat salsa because, technically, the spiciness is a negative stimulus telling them not to eat it. My opinion is that this phenominon evolved because it encourages us to take reasonable risks (like eating somewhat spicy foods if there is no other food available) without going overboard, and allows us to adapt to our surroundings (we can increase our threshhold for a negative stimulus through repeated exposure). The reason this same phenominon didn't evolve in other animals might be because only we have a brain that's complex enough to be able to override what our body is telling us.

          3 Replies
          1. re: PlatypusJ

            On the dogs won't eat salsa thing....well, my dog will eat spicy (hot) food, if it's got meat in it (the breading and meat from very spicy chicken wings, for instance; or my nuclear chili made with hot NM Hatch chiles. I don't think he'd eat salsa plain, but then, he doesn't eat tomatoes plain, either ;-)

            Cheers,
            Niki

            1. re: Niki in Dayton

              Oops, I went back and saw that domesticated animals will but wild animals won't. So I guess it's not a "complex brain" thing as much as a learning thing. Thanks Niki!

              1. re: PlatypusJ

                Where did you read that info? I'd like to see it. I've marveled at my dogs for years. We are heat-lovers: habanero salsa, hot horseradish, chinese mustard. And the dogs will eat any of it they're given w/o blinking an eye.

          2. Well we don;t, well not jfood at least. jfood does not like spice, does not understand spice and does not cook with hot. The only exception is wasabi with sushi and horseradish with gefilte fish.

            second point, please tell us you did not double-dip the finger in the sauce, blech!

            3 Replies
            1. re: jfood

              jfood will be happy to know the sauce was for me only. Besides, I did wash it off between.

              DT

              1. re: jfood

                I'm with you. I can't take spice at all. I certainly don't like the feeling that I've somehow singed my nose hairs. Likewise, a *little* wasabi in soy but I'll pass on the horseradish.

                And to the poster below, *not spicy* does not equal bland. Flavorful does not mean "spicy" in the sense of hot; it's just "well-spiced," as in the use of spices, herbs, flavorings, or even just the enhancement of the natural goodness inherent in many foods.

                1. re: Emme

                  point taken, thanks. I oversimplfied.

              2. poor jfood, but I guess the guy is happy. I second the endorphin thing, and I find that spicy foods satisfy me in a way that bland food can not - at least some of the time, so when I taste something spicy, there is a pleasurable association. I found playtpus' post very interesting.

                2 Replies
                1. re: KaimukiMan

                  I agree with you on playtpus. As well as the endorphin thing.

                  One thing I do think is important is some spice. I think, like salt waking up flavours, I think at least a bit of heat wakes up your taste buds. It doesn't have to be searing hot if that's not your thing but I firmly believe that a little tingle on the tonge makes food tasted better.

                  DT

                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                    it's a tough cross to bear, but what the heck.

                    jfood always looks around and sees people grabbing water, sweat pouring off their foreheads, eyes tearing, heads shaking and inevitably followed by the obligatory, "WOW that's hot!!! Man is that good!!!"

                    It brings a smile to jfood. He doesn't understand it but anyone smiling while eating is a good sign.

                    BTW - Little jfood keeps a bottle of Franks Hot Sauce in her car.

                    Now true story - Jfood visiting the newly built Hyundai plant in Alabama or Mississippi or somewhere else (all he know it was a bear to get to). After the meetings the locals wanted to take us for some local cooking. Big smile. We pull off the main road, the side road and then the side-side road and pull up to this shack. OK jfood is game. We walk inside and the walls are lined with shelves and on all the shelves are bottles of hot sauce from EVERYWHERE. Hundreds of self-proclaimed "Best Hot Sauce" int he world. So we order and you just ask the waiter to "Bring that one please". So there are 10 bottles of these hot sauces on the table. And jfood tried every single one of them. Did he like the heat, absolutely not. But each had different flavors for the food and jfood worked his way through each.

                    To say that the flights home were long is an understatement but if heat leads to endo expulsions, jfood was full-tilt endo'ed