Hubris (noun)– an excessive or foolish amount of pride or confidence

If a waiter or a waitress taking my order in Taiwan asks how spicy I want my hot pot broth, I either say not at all or mild if I’m feeling particularly adventurous that evening. In the U.S., I have a more difficult time gauging the degree of spiciness; “hot” can mean anything from “they probably didn’t hear me” to setting my mouth on fire.

Last weekend when I ordered tandoori chicken drumsticks at an Indian restaurant, I said “spicy” when being asked how I’d like my food. As it turned out, they were on the latter end of the spectrum. Never missing an opportunity to add fuel to the flame, my boyfriend called me out on my geographically dependent spicy food hubris as I nursed my tongue with tangy mint chutney and naan.

In 1912, Wilbur Scoville invented a scale to measure pungency with heat units when he was a professor at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, scientists have improved his measurement since then. They broke down the heat profile into five different characteristic: 1) how hot it is, 2) how fast the heat comes on, 3) whether it linger or dissipates quickly, 4) where one senses the heat – on the tip of tongue, at the back of throat, etc., and 5) whether the heat registers as “flat” or “sharp.” Personally, I’m not sure if I’d be able to taste these nuances, if ever at all.


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