Hot! Hot! Hot! Peppers & “Tamales”

 

Naga bhut jolokia (aka, ghost pepper), which supposedly rates at 855,000 SHU.
Naga bhut jolokia (aka, ghost pepper), which supposedly rates at 855,000 SHU.

Hotness Hurts So Good

Serendipitously, I brought in hot peppers from my garden for “hot” (aka, human mate selection) week. I bring foodstuffs in when I teach primate diet & ecology, as I had just done at TMSE, so I had some dry roasted crickets, garden herbs, half a durian fruit, & a bunch of habanero, ghost chilis, & tabasco peppers on hand to share. The ghost chili was certified in 2007 as the world’s hottest pepper, 10,000x hotter than tabasco (which means tabasco diluted with vinegar & water?).

Ross's face turned a bit red.  Hot, Ross?
Ross’s face turned a bit red. Hot, Ross?

I told them that one of my sons had vomitted after eating a tabasco the other night, so the students declined to try anything hotter. My son is only 9, but some of their faces turned beet red eating tabascos anyway, so it was still entertaining.

I think Ashley found it mildly hot
I think Ashley found it mildly hot

The durian is supposedly one of the favorite foods of orangutans & is a memorable classroom prop, as it is also reputed to be banned from taxis & some hotels in SE Asia because of its strong odor. I think it’s not so bad after being frozen & shipped, but it does make for quite a spectacle, being giant & dangerously spikey. The taste turns off even Andrew Zimmern (of Bizarre Foods), but I quite like it (kinda like sweet onion custard). The Asian grocery in Hoover, AL where I used to get them told me they keep them on hand for pregnant Chinese women’s cravings. Apocryphal or not, it’s a good story. The students were none too bothered by it either, until it had sat on the table with the strong fresh herb smell for a while, which became a bit intense.

Phys Anth lunch menu: fresh herbs, dry roasted crickets, durian fruit, hot peppers
Phys Anth lunch menu: fresh herbs, dry roasted crickets, durian fruit, hot peppers

Who Is the Hot Tamale (& What Makes Him/Her Hot)?

For her presentation on mate selection, Emma developed an activity to illustrate how our mate preferences change based on context.hotness3

First we were provided a set of photographs & potential opposite-sex partners & asked to array them in order of preference.  Next, a select piece of information was revealed, & we were asked to reorder them.  Mine were females, so the information indicated that one had a child, one was divorced, one had been engaged more than once, & so on.hotness2

Another layer of select information was revealed, & we were asked to reorder them.  It was something like, this one was once arrested, etc. (I think). 

Elise is thinking, "Do I really mind if he already has 5 kids by 3 other women? "
Elise is thinking, “Do I really mind if he already has 5 kids by 3 other women? “

The 3rd set of information indicated what their respective occupations were.  Of course, several of what had appeared to be train wrecks were actually highly paid, successful individuals who (gasp!) had interesting lives.

Ross is sooo stoked!
Ross is sooo stoked! She’s hot AND he’ll never have to worry about how much money he’ll make as an anthropologist!

It was an excellent activity that I will have to steal for future use & reminded me of the 1990 Townsend & Levy experiment where people were surveyed on their preference of two males as mates, one handsome & the other homely, when told they were either doctors or Burger King cashiers, with wildly disparate results (homely but rich wins out over handsome but po’ every time).  It also reminded me of Doug Kenrick’s experiment highlighted in the Science of Sex Appeal, in which individuals have numbers on their heads but don’t know what they are.  They are looking for the highest number as a mate but so is everyone else.  What it demonstrates is that individuals generally end up with someone with a number close to their own.

These kids keep setting the bar high & coming up with great activities that I hope others find useful!

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