Us chilli heads get to indulge in one of the most exhilarating aspects of cuisine - the legendary burn that accompanies spicy food. An experienced chilli head can spark up any meal - soups, salads, roasts, sandwiches, even desserts - with a well-proportioned dose of something spicy.
On the other end of the spectrum, and woe is them, are people who haven’t had a chance to enjoy spicy food. It can be a shame watching someone scarf down an entire meal without adding anything spicy to it, but sometimes, it’s not easy to convince someone that their banana would taste better with cayenne pepper on it. (Alright, maybe that’s not for everyone.)
We’re here to help give some pointers on how to introduce people to spicy food without scaring them.
Why do some people not eat their food spicy?
This is a question that’s plagued chilli heads for ages. It seems so natural for us to dollop anything spicy onto everything we eat - it’s become second nature. It’s not uncommon for me to share a bite of my meal with someone, only to have them fanning themselves and panting moments later because it’s ‘too spicy’ - despite me not being able to taste any heat at all!
There are a few reasons that people might not regularly add spicy things to their food.
- They’re afraid! Some people think chilli-heads are masochistic nuts and that the food we eat is too painful to even be considered food anymore.
- They’ve never been introduced to spicy food. If someone’s raise in a household by parents who don’t eat spicy food, they might not even have a chance to try it until they’re in their teenage years.
- They’re extra sensitive. In one of our other articles, we’ve identified some of the reasons that people have different sensitivities to spicy food.
These are the three most common reasons that people don’t eat their food spicy, and fortunately, it’s not too difficult to work against these problems to try and convince someone to at least give spicy food a try.
Introducing the scaredy-cats to hot food
If someone’s never eaten spicy food because they’re scared because of the reaction it provokes in people who like it hot, you’ll have to appeal to their fears.
- Tell them the reaction is much more severe than the physical feeling calls for. This may or may not be true - eating a ghost chilli is definitely reason for you to break out in sweat and have a pounding heart - but if someone associates that reaction with a little dollop of Tabasco sauce, then their fears are misplaced. You could prove this to them by eating something with mild spice and showing them that there’s no reaction.
- Tell them that eating spicy food makes them tough. To grow and evolve as a person, you have to step out of your comfort zone! Doing this broadens your life experience. Eating chilli peppers on the regular also decreases your brain’s production of substance P, which is responsible for sending pain signals throughout your body. This means you can improve your resistance to pain!
If they don’t eat spicy food because they’ve had a bad experience and don’t want to repeat it, find out what their experience was. If they had stomach issues or ate something way too hot, try and provide for them something with very mild spice. This is a good way to gently introduce them to hot food.
Introducing those who live under a rock
If someone was raised in an environment that never provided them with an opportunity to eat spicy food, then you get to be the one to change their lives!
You’ll want to do this gradually. Don’t throw a scorpion pepper on their plate and tell them to chomp down - start out with a mild sauce, like Frank’s. I personally can’t handle Frank’s - it just tastes like vinegar to me - but a lot of my amateur spice-eating friends say it provides them with a good kick.
You’ll want to tell them about all the benefits of eating spicy food, too.
- Tell them about the health benefits. Chilli peppers are anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and they improve your metabolism and can help you lose weight.
- Tell them that hot food can provide a bit of an endorphin and adrenaline rush, which can be exciting.
- Tell them that they’re about to open the doors to an entirely new culinary world with a whole new range of flavours.
Catering to extra-sensitive people
If people don’t eat spicy food because of a genuine sensitivity, it might be impossible for you to convince them to start eating spicy food.
Fortunately, most spice sensitivity is actually related to some aspect of the individual’s personality. People who tend to be adventurous or who seek thrills tend to like spicy food more often. Maybe convince them that, by not eating spicy food, they’re missing out on the full extent of life!
If you’re a bit of a prankster, you could spice their food for them. Using very mild amounts at first, you could build up their tolerance to spice and one day reveal to them that they’re actually quite tolerant to spice and can handle eating hot things. (If you do this, make sure that the individual doesn’t have any real medical concerns related to their choice not to eat hot food.)
If someone’s tried hot food and doesn’t want to keep eating it, it can be pretty hard to make them do otherwise. Still, it’s worth a shot to enlighten them about the benefits of eating hot food and the excitement that one gets from eating their meals spicy.
Some people just aren’t going to like their food spicy, and that’s that. It’s a shame, but as long as they’re aware of all the health benefits and are certain that they’re not missing out on a great culinary lifestyle because of a misplaced fear, then that choice is up to them.
For folk who just haven’t had a proper introduction to eating spicy food, there are ways to ease them into the lifestyle. Hopefully we’ve been able to give you some good ideas, and hopefully you can use these ideas to help turn another person into a chilli-head!