Homemade chili oil and the psychology of spice-lovers

About me: I am a hungry lifetarian, meaning that I am always thinking of ways to improve, enhance, or somehow better my life.”

Ok…to be fair…this may only be part of the story.

An equally appropriate description of sensation seekers, including myself,  is that the way we lead our lives may seem somewhat unfocused, dangerous, and risky to low sensation seekers. A situational example of each groups would be those who have went or would enjoy skydiving (sensation seekers) vs people who would not go skydiving (low sensation seekers).

Sensation seeking is a personality trait common in people who value and seek experiences that are “varied, novel, complex, and intense.” This concept was developed by Dr. Marvin Zuckerman, Professor Emeritus at the University of Delaware.

According the 1978 work of Zuckerman, sensation seeking can be further divided into four traits:

  • Thrill– and adventure-seeking: rock-climbing, skydiving, white water rafting
  • Experience-seeking: being socially unconventional, seeking out ‘black sheep’ or unusual people
  • Disinhibition:  enjoying being out-of-control. i.e. drinking, doing drugs, sexual exploration, dancing
  • Boredom susceptibility: getting bored easily, accompanied with feelings of restlessness, wanderlust, maybe anxiety with bored people.

I could basically be a poster child.

Using Zuckerman’s scale of  sensation seeking, researchers at several universities including UPenn, SUNY Stony Brook, and Penn State have linked the tendency to enjoy eating spicy foods to thrill seeking. In these studies, sensation seeking emerged as a strong predictor of spicy food liking and predicted how frequently  people would consume spicy foods. Importantly though, sensation seekers were not associated with liking non-spicy foods, or eating food in general.

The studies also disprove a common misconception that chili-heads become desensitized to capsaicin, the burning chemical in chilis, with repeated exposure. In fact it is just the opposite, where chili-heads and non-spicy eaters have the same perceived effects from chili exposure.

It’s true. I also love me some hot sauce. I’ve always wondered about making my own chili oil, but I imagined that only highly-skilled chefs could properly make it without scorching their eyeballs from the fumes or burning the oil/chilis in the process.

Here’s how you can play highly-skilled chef :

Homemade chili oilP1020816

1 cup vegetable oil, or canola

20 dried thai chilis

1 Tbsp sesame oil

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat until it just starts to smoke. Remove from heat, and wait for 3 minutes. DO NOT RUSH. You do not want to scorch the peppers.

Pour the oil over the crushed chili peppers in a heat safe jar. Add the sesame oil if you are using.

P1020814

After the oil mixture has cooled, strain the peppers (and reserve for recipes!) from the oil. The oil should remain fresh for several months.

P1020817

But who are we kidding…you will finish it off in no time.

This is a perfect condiment for chinese cooking, salads, and raw pasta dishes…recipes coming soon…sneak peak on Instagram.

Feel the burnnnnnnn!!!!!

Are you a sensation seeker?

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