January 24th, 2015| Topic: RaMbLeS | 3


Everybody seems to be doing it. Kraft has habanero peppers in some of its sliced cheese. Bumble Bee has canned tuna with jalapeños or chipotle. So does Hamburger Helper. Kraft’s Mac and Cheese has a sharp cheddar and jalapeño version. Kind Bars has a roasted jalapeño almond bar. There’s Oscar Mayer Jalapeño hot dogs, Chipotle Philadelphia Cream Cheese spread, and so on ….

Apparently all this spicy stuff releases endorphins (from “endogenous morphine”) in our brains. That’s why the stuff is so addictive! The hotter the better, is my personal dictum. Maybe that has something to do with being a native of a city only 8° north of the equator. The closer to the equator in location, the greater the heat (in food).

Lonely Planet, the travel handbook company, has even published The World’s Best Spicy Food: Where to Find It and How to Make It, to help aficionados take a hot tour of the world.

“The landscape mapped is a sensory one, and progress is measured not in miles but in Scoville units—the standard measure for the relative ferocity of the many varieties of chili pepper relished around the world.”

I gotta get me a copy.

Says Chris Hjorth, senior director of marketing for natural cheese at Kraft:

“Spice lovers like to push the boundaries to see how far they can go.”


So Kraft’s line of spicy cheese has packaging that includes a “heat scale.” Five chili pepper icons grade the scale from mild (Smoky Chipotle) to extra hot (Hot Habañero). Believe it or not, they are considering adding ghost pepper (“bhut jolokia,” from India, and about a 1000 times hotter than Tabasco sauce!). Ambitious for Kraft. But good news for me. I’ll happily buy it!

But neurophysiologists believe that it is not just the heat that attracts palates like mine. This peppery stuff is painful, they say. The capsaicin molecule, that causes all the pain pleasure, is eagerly consumed, even though by nature we are repelled by it. Apparently, it’s all a matter of conditioning. For instance, animals across the spectrum prefer unspicy food, even if it is artificially spiked to make them sick. For some strange cultural reason that is unique to humans, we love the tempestuous torment of chili!

Pain and pleasure. The parts of the brain responsible for sensing them actually overlap considerably. Both sensations are based on nerves in the brainstem and on the chemical dopamine; both activate similar areas in the cortex, too. In parts of the brain, the nerves that respond to pain and pleasure are juxtaposed.

Pulitzer Prize winner, John McQuaid, reports:

“The love of heat was nothing more than these two systems of pleasure and pain working together.”

Benign masochism, he concludes—an “intentional soliciting of danger,” kinda like bungee jumping!

(If this is true, then this is the only intentional solicitation of danger I engage in. At my age, I find out where all the action is so that I can stay away from it. One has to save one’s allotted heartbeats, you know.)

I don’t know all about this pain–pleasure duet.

But the Bible does promise pleasure after the pains of this life, particularly persecutions.

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you,
and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great.”
Matthew 5:11–12


For momentary, light affliction
is producing for us
an eternal weight of glory
far beyond all comparison.
2 Corinthians 4:17

Suffering first, glory later, as the Gospel of Mark reiterates often.


  1. luc ladry February 3, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    The message is much appreciated, as it makes me “savor” all the more the value of the persecution I go through these days because of my faith in the Lord. Thanks for the insight.

  2. Michael Crosswhite January 25, 2015 at 6:14 am

    Interesting. The older I’ve become, the more I like the occasional spice. Good article! I like having something to read on Sunday mornings!


Share Your Thoughts

Copyright © 2012 Homiletix  |  Blog theme by ThemeShift customized by Gurry Design  |  Full sitemap