To continue the sweaty, competitive theme of the day, here’s a Texas Monthly note on “Denton’s Fight to Prevent the Sriracha Apocalypse”:
Earlier this week, a pro-environment entity filed a lawsuit to prevent the production of one of our nation’s most important resources.
No, not oil or gas. This legal war is being waged over Sriracha.
The city of Irwindale, California sued Huy Fong Foods to halt production of the popular Thai-inspired hot sauce. Apparently the factory, which Huy Fong opened last year to meet high demand, brings whole new meaning to the phrase “sweat shop.” Nearby residents claim the factory produces a “strong, offensive chili odor,” which requires them to “move outdoor activities indoors and even to vacate their residences temporarily.” …
In the midst of this hysteria, one Texas politician arose from the chaos and offered potential salvation. Kevin Roden, a Denton city councilman, posted an open letter on his website to Huy Fong in an attempt to bring the company to the Lone Star state.
Roden wrote that Denton has plenty to offer Huy Fong, including cheap land, shovel-ready industrial sites, a city-owned electric company, an emerging urban farm district, and “tons of college students seemingly willing to work for a daily supply of free Sriracha.”
And the odor, and alleged chili-induced eye irritation or headaches? Not a problem. According to Roden, Denton’s industrial sites are located “far away” from residential neighborhoods, so Huy Fong won’t need to worry about future lawsuits….
And in a more leisurely, contemplative tone, here’s Lauren Collins, in the New Yorker:
… In recent years, “superhots”—chilis that score above 500,000 on the Scoville scale—have consumed the attention of chiliheads, who debate grow lights on Facebook (“You can overwinter with a few well-placed T-8s”), swap seeds in flat-rate boxes (Australian customs is their nemesis), and show up in droves at fiery-foods events (wares range from Kiss My Bhut hot sauce to Vanilla Heat coffee creamer). Chilis, in general, are beautiful. There is a reason no one makes Christmas lights in the shape of rutabagas. Superhots come in the brightest colors and the craziest shapes. Their names, evoking travel and conquest—Armageddon, Borg 9, Naga Morich, Brain Strain—sound as though they were made up by the evil twins of the people who brand body lotions. Trinidad 7-Pots are so called because it’s said that one of them is enough to season seven pots of stew.
Like computers, superhots are evolving at a rate that embarrasses the phenomena of just a few years ago. In 1992, Jane and Michael Stern observed, in this magazine, that five thousand Scoville units “would be considered very hot by most people, but even that is piddling compared with the blistering fury of the habanero pepper, which can reach three hundred thousand.” (The Scoville test originally measured how many drops of sugar water it would take to dilute the heat of a chili; pungency is now determined more reliably by high-performance liquid chromatography, whose results can still be reported in Scoville units.) From 1994 to 2007, the Red Savina—a scarlet, heart-shaped pod rating 570,000 SHU—held the Guinness World Record for hottest chili pepper. Then the bhut jolokia, the existence of which had been whispered about for years among chiliheads, as though it were a vegetable Loch Ness monster, surfaced on the international scene. In 2000, R. K. R. Singh, a scientist at a Ministry of Defense research laboratory in Assam, India, where the bhut jolokia is widely grown, submitted some samples for analysis. The test results, which indicated that it was significantly more powerful than the Red Savina, made their way to Paul Bosland, a professor of horticulture and former sauerkraut expert who, for the past twenty-two years, has run the Chile Pepper Institute, at New Mexico State University. Bosland was skeptical of the Indian scientists’ numbers, but he managed to obtain some bhut jolokia seeds, which he grew into plants. In January of 2007, he filed with Guinness, which awarded the C.P.I.’s bhut jolokia (1,001,300 SHU) the new world record.
In February of 2011, Guinness confirmed that the Infinity chili, grown in Lincolnshire, England, by a former R.A.F. security guard, had surpassed the bhut jolokia by more than sixty-five thousand SHU. Only two weeks later, a Cumbrian farmer named Gerald Fowler introduced the Naga Viper. At 1,382,118 SHU, it was, Fowler said, “hot enough to strip paint.” He told reporters, “We’re absolutely, absolutely chuffed. Everyone complains about the weather and rain here in Cumbria, but we think it helped us breed the hottest chili.” He posed for the Daily Mail wearing a sombrero.
Chiliheads are mostly American, British, and Australian guys. (There is also a valiant Scandinavian contingent.) Chili growing is to gardening as grilling is to cooking, allowing men to enter, and dominate, a domestic sphere without sacrificing their bluster…