It Burns: The Battle For the Hottest Pepper (How’s This Book?)

It Burns: The Scandal-Plagued Race to Breed the World’s Hottest Chilli
Written/Narrated By Marc Fennel
Release Date: April 15th, 2019
Length: 2 Hours and 52 Minutes
Link to Purchase

Do you know what I find fascinating? Spicy peppers! No, not like your average habanero or jalapeno. I’m talking about the really hot ones! The ones that leave you as a blubbering, vomiting mess after you eat them. The science and history of these peppers are just so intriguing to me!

Not that I’ve ever eaten one. I’m pretty sure it would kill me.

‘It Burns’ takes a deep dive into the Chili-Head culture. Going into it, I was expecting ‘Here’s this pepper, how it was made and how it places on the global rankings’. What I didn’t expect was a story filled with broken men, loss, addiction, and violent controversy! Listening to this book only made me realize that this world of super-hot peppers is even more interesting than I thought it already was!

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The Carolina Reaper, Currently the World’s Hottest Pepper at 2.2 Million on the Scoville Scale

In this audio-documentary, author Marc Fennel takes a journey into the world of Chili-Heads. He goes to the world’s top researchers, breeders, and personalities to answer two questions: why do people eat these super-hot peppers and which is the world’s hottest pepper? Along the way, he discovers the insane lengths some of these people go to create the hottest peppers, why they do it and what makes them do what they do.

Now, be warned: this book is not for the faint of heart. Some of these people have suffered incredibly fucked-up lives! The man behind the Carolina Reaper was a former alcoholic and drug addict. One of the interviewees, Ted Barrus, lost both his parents when his father lost his mind and shot his wife, then himself.

These people have all found something better thanks to super-hot chilis. Ted Barrus finds happiness through the attention he gets online for his pepper-eating antics. The creator of the Reaper managed to conquer his addictions by becoming a pepper-farmer! By eating/making these super-hot peppers, they have managed to fill a hole in their lives and find true happiness. It’s simultaneously tragic, interesting and uplifting.

This book also goes into the science behind the peppers themselves. It breaks down capsaicin, the chemical inside chilis that creates the illusion of heat, how the Scovil Scale works and how chilis are measured on the scale, and the different labs and universities that conduct the research. Mr. Fennel goes to interview some of the top researchers of super-hot peppers, and their insights are super interesting!

The Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, the second-hottest pepper at 2 million on the Scoville scale.

Then there are the peppers themselves. This book goes over some of the most infamous ones in the world. We go from the Trinidad Scorpion, as seen above, the Carolina Reaper, the legendary Ghost Pepper (which has since been left in the dust by the competition) and even a few peppers that are hotter than the Reaper that haven’t been put through the official process of recognition, such as the Dragon’s Breath pepper and the yet-released Pepper X! It goes over how hot each one is (some of which are practically lethal), how they were made/discovered and how they’ve been received by the Chili-Head community.

Which is often poorly. People are super passionate (and often quite rude/violent) about which pepper is the hottest.

Granted, this may be a very niche subject. My fascination with super-hot peppers, the science and history behind them, and the people who eat them may not be a subject that everyone could get into. But if you sound even remotely interested in this subject, then this book will almost certainly hook you in!

Dragon’s Breath chilis, which sit at 2.48 Million on the Scoville Scale (it has not been officially registered, so it does not have the world-record title)

I recommend checking out ‘It Burns’! It is a super short listen, but every word of it is incredibly fascinating! Whether you love chilis or you want to stay away from them, this book is a super educational and super fascinating book.

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