(Mashing up something I read in the newspaper).
A chili’s spiciness
calculating content of capsaicin.
A pepper’s piquancy
is experienced in
Scoville heat units.
Imagine the American chemist Wilbur Scoville,
(who invented the method in 1912)
cleverly devising the Scoville organoleptic test
using a panel of tasters
all given chili extract
diluted in sugar water.
There is a final heat unit.
It is based on the proportion of dilution
required to render the chili’s heat
(completely, I imagine) undetectable.
Of course, we are told,
a Scoville rating is relatively inaccurate:
there is, in fact, a subjective human element
and it is a fact not all chili species
have had the same growing conditions.
(La infancia del chile es su destino:
dicen que hay quienes son picosos desde infantes.)
I am haunted though by what I’ve learnt
is known as the Ghost Chili:
the Bhut Jolokia, the world’s hottest.
Pure capsaicin, with a rating three times higher
than police-grade pepper spray–
most people are reduced to tears.