Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Spice ratings aren't cool points

One of my friends posted a complaint the other day that she was tired of people acting like she was weak or there was something wrong because she doesn't like spicy food.

I really wanted to reply with the internet standard of "are you me?" Because I have had to put up with this attitude so much in my life it's ridiculous.

What's worse is that I usually have to severely exaggerate my problems with spicy food in order for people to take me seriously about it. Because they always think of spice in terms of what THEY tolerate and they don't really care about anybody else.

And what is up with that? Why are people so weird about the heat of their food? And in my experience, it's usually not even the people who are from cultures that frequently use spices. I mean, I've had a few cultural misunderstanding moments where, for example, Mexican food that's listed as mild is still too much for me. But when I ate with an Indian family once, they very carefully showed me which foods I would probably enjoy, and they were right, everything was delicious. That's been pretty emblematic of my experiences eating with people from other cultures, once they know I have problems with too much heat, they're very nice about telling me what's good and what I'll like.

It's the Americans that get all macho and weird about it, and usually it's men for some reason. Listen, being able to eat something spicy doesn't really mean anything. It doesn't say anything about your stamina or manliness or even pain tolerance. It just says whether or not your taste buds and digestive system are acclimated and adapted to handle it.

Mine aren't. I have actual health problems that mean that certain spices and overly "hot" foods make me sick. And because I'm so sensitive to it, it means that I have no tolerance for it because I have no experience with it. I read an article the other day about how we're not opposed to certain foods as much as we just don't like new foods. There were two important things to gain from it - one, because these foods make me sick I'm not going to ever eat them the ten to fifteen times it takes to learn to like them and acclimate myself to them. And two, they outright say that if a food makes you sick then you're going to hate it and there's nothing you can do about it.

But here's the overall point to this - it doesn't actually matter if it makes me sick or not because liking or being able to eat spicy food still doesn't say anything about how manly you are, or how cool you are, or how worldly, or anything else. It says absolutely nothing about you except that you like spicy food. That's it, that's the sum total of it. It doesn't mean you're more experienced or you've traveled more or even that you're open to new things. It just means that there's a food that you like.

And the inverse is not liking spicy food also doesn't say anything about you automatically. Sure, there are some people who don't like it because they've never done anything and refuse to try anything new. Not that it matters, but the point is that just the preference for or against spice isn't a mark of that attitude.

So if you're the type of person who goes on about it, points it out, or generally makes any kind of deal about it, then do us all a favor and think about shutting up next time. There's nothing wrong with a, "oh, I love hot wings, the spicier the better." It's when somebody replies, "Oh, I'm not really a fan" and you freak out about it that's a problem. That's generally true of all food preferences, but I'll write about that another time.

Long story short, if somebody doesn't like a food that you love, get over it.

Unless it's cheese. People who don't like cheese still make me wary.