Hot Food

In Cory Doctorow’s young adult geek-indoctrination novel, Little Brother, one of the ways the female geek lead charms the male geek lead is by carrying around her own aerosol mister of super-hot hot sauce. Doctorow, one of the editors of the BoingBoing linkblog and geek icon, knows geeks.

One of the two molecules that geeks adore even above water and oxygen is capsaicin, the substance that gives spicy food its flavor. This is one of the few food-related loves geeks have, because even though they’re extremely picky about things like action figures and videogames, they’ll shove any old junk down their throats.

Hotness is measured in Scoville units, which is great for geeks because it allows them to keep a score when eating, turning any meal into a contest. Not only do Scoville Units give geeks a list of numbers they know even better than the Star Wars timeline, but since an average jalapeño pepper has a rating of about 2,500 Scoville Units and a habanero pepper around 100,000 units, it lets them throw around absurdly high numbers to describe their spicy food. Geeks are under the impression that eating a “loco caliente” pepper is the exact equivalent of bench-pressing 400 pounds, and should impress others to the same extent. They will loudly order their Indian food “extra hot” and complain when it’s brought out that it “hardly has any flavor”.

As is so often the case when dealing with geeks, it’s all about quantity and not quality. The amount of heat geeks demand ensures that the heat is the only thing they’re tasting, so it makes no difference if the hot sauce is on chicken, rice, or dog turds. The goal isn’t flavor, it’s making sure everyone else at the table knows you like things really really spicy. They’ll spend an eternity deciding which exotic sushi rolls to order and then smother them in enough wasabi to make the choice utterly meaningless.

While there are also plenty of non-geek hot pepper enthusiasts out there, it’s worth noting that they share the delight in eating food as a physical challenge instead of actual physical exertion.

Hot food is a vector for both pushing more garbage into their gullets and giving everyone around them a chance to be wowed by their eating, so you better believe geeks LOVE hot food.

30 Responses

  1. How timely. Just this weekend, I kid you not, I ate a Naga Jolokia pepper. At my weekly D&D game.

    I skipped going to the gym that morning too, so guilty as charged, yer honor.

  2. Thank you so much for your incisive exposure (and in my case, confirmation) of the notion that geeks ask for spicy mainly to dicksize. I am not a masochist, so therefore I feel no need to impress others with my gustatory fortitude and eat “I can only taste the spicy” kind of food.

    Hell, I can barely take most kinds of garden variety hotsauce, which may put my status as a black person in danger, too. I don’t care; pain sucks.

  3. […] and envy. Geeks happily incorporate genre fiction into their identity, along with their love of hot foods, caffeinated products, and other pop culture junk. But even geeks know this is an unstable […]

  4. […] around caffeine. In some sense, geeks aren’t really special in their appreciation of this molecule. But, as with everything else, geeks are never content to simply enjoy something. They have to […]

  5. How geeky or non-geeky is admiring the use of capsaicin in DIY tech?

    “Hotness is measured in Scoville units, which is great for geeks because it allows them to keep a score when eating…”

    Now if the Elephant Pepper Development Trust could quantify the #s of maize farmers’ children sent to school, the # of elephants saved, etc. then how much more chili could they sell to geeks? :)

  6. “They’ll spend an eternity deciding which exotic sushi rolls to order and then smother them in enough wasabi to make the choice utterly meaningless.”

    It’s still silly how people who don’t regularly eat hot sauce think the experience is the same for everyone else.

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