This Foodie Friday, let’s bring the heat. Specifically, let’s talk about hot peppers. Many people, myself included, enjoy spicy food. The problem with cooking food that brings the heat is that what’s hot to me might not be hot enough for you. Now that I think of it, the opposite is nearly always true – if I’m happy with the heat in a dish, chances are most of the folks for whom I’m cooking are going to find it hard to eat and enjoy.
This article from First We Feast summarized it nicely:
A 2013Technomic study showed that 54% of Americans prefer spicy sauces and dips—a number that was and likely still is increasing rapidly. Unlike so many other taste preferences, though, the growth of spice brings with it a prickly issue: How much heat can your tongue handle?
As it turns out research shows that tolerance to hot food is both genetic and a learned habit – you can train yourself to eat hotter food if you’re willing to go through the pain of doing so, and some folks have a head start based on genetics. “Hot” or “Spicy” is really a subjective term even though a measurement standard exists that make it really easy to tell how much heat is in a dish. Scientists can measure Scoville units to determine how the capsaicin in a pepper or a dish registers as heat. It’s an objective standard. Which brings us to the business point today.
Too many of us rely on gut feel – how we perceive things to be – rather than an objective standard. What seems fine to us might be intolerable to our customers. There is little in business that we can or should do without measuring, even if we can’t test in advance. That’s not to say that we never should put things out there based on our own tastes, but we need to listen carefully to feedback and be prepared to adjust the seasoning. It’s fine to bring the heat in any product or business, but let’s remember that some folks can’t stand any heat and will go running from our kitchens if we’re not paying attention.