IN my eating prime, when gluttonous behaviour left no impression on my waistline, I could have been a contender as an eating challenge pro.
But alas, eating challenges were not a big thing in my teens and twenties. In food terms, it was a simpler time.
And so, a couple of decades later, I am left to ponder just what might have been – Oh the glory I could have garnered, as I scoffed down the world’s largest schnitzel or Australia’s tallest burger in under an hour!
Yet my concerns now about the volume of food does not preclude me from niche challenges – such as spiciness. And so it was with much anticipation I headed to Waverley Brewhouse at Carousel with my colleague Matt Zis for the bar’s 6 wing challenge.
It was in a share house with a couple of close friends in Melbourne as a young cub reporter that I started experimenting with food – and chilli was our thing. Each week we would take turns making toxic chilli con carne that blew the lid off other invited friends.
And since then my love of spice and seasoning has grown.
At Waverley Brewhouse the order is placed – a well-priced $10 for one person, $7 for each additional board – plus the $2 care package of yoghurt, lime, capsicum and milk. I’m hoping the yoghurt and lime do the trick because I’m not going near that glass of milk.
The wings themselves involve sauces with different bases, starting with a traditional buffalo-style sauce, and heading into potent combinations of chipotle, habanero, scorpion and ghost chillies.
When the wings arrive, they are alluring, but a close sniff sends a tingle up the nose with a portent of what is to come …
🔥 Scoville Level 500 🔥
If I’m buying a plate of #1, with a buffalo sauce base, I’m probably disappointed. While tasty enough, it barely tingles my palette. Next please!
🔥 Scoville level 1000 🔥
Again with a buffalo sauce base, #2 does take it up a notch, and I’m probably in my Sunday bar food zone here. Comfortable, with a touch of fire.
🔥 Scoville Level 5000 🔥
Now we’re talking. The Brewhouse chefs are ramping up the heat on #3 and I’m loving it. With the last of the wing devoured, there is a fairy dancing around my tongue jabbing me with a micro-pins, but I’m good. A sip of water and I’m ready to push on. My colleague Matt, however, is not faring as well. He’s not beaten, but the eyes are turning a little pink and moist and the sniffs are on as the sinus goes a little haywire.
🔥 Scoville level 15,000 🔥
It makes no sense, with the Scoville level raised threefold, but I’m travelling better on #4 than #3. There will be a delayed effect from this wing down the back of the throat, but water is on hand to wash it away, and I’m good to go on. The “care package” remains untouched. Matt’s eyes, meanwhile, are that little bit more teary and the first beads of sweat have begun to appear.
🔥 Scoville level 350,000 🔥
Oh, Mamma! This is what we came for, and it’s time to show your game. From the first bite the fire starts swirling and the tongue dodges around the mouth, then in and out, looking for relief. A good scull of water and my first couple of spoons of yoghurt are required here. It will be a few minutes until I’m ready to go again, but the eyes are still dry and not a hint of sweat has appeared. Beside me, however, Matt is starting to struggle. There are full, big tears rolling from his eyes and he’s shifting around in the seat. You’ve got to give it to him, though, he’s continuing on. But then, and as we stamp our fifth successful wing on our challenge sheet, we look at number 6, and there’s trepidation …
🔥 Scoville Level 15,000,000 🔥
BANG! Pick whichever fire breathing dragon you want – one of the trio from Game of Thrones, Eustace from The Chronicles of Narnia or one of your more traditional versions – I have metamorphosised. This is bloody hot folks! The first moisture develops in the inside corners of my eyes, although not enough to tear up, but I am now reaching for respite. A couple of minutes after downing this last wing, I am up out of my seat and the yoghurt goes down hastily, then nearly a full jug of water. This stuff packs a wallop. But I’m through, and there’s only a bare skerrick of meat left on the bone. Matt has also completed the challenge but is travelling MUCH worse. He’s sniffing, and shaking, and tears are flowing from his eyes – it’s going to take him a while to recover.