I’ve never really been one to hop aboard the “challenge” train.
From planking, flash mobs, bottle flipping and doing the Harlem Shake, none of it has appealed to me.
Admittedly, I did the Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014, but not because I thought it would raise awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
I simply thought the idea of being doused in ice water in the dead of summer in the Mississippi Delta sounded like a great idea. And, it was quite refreshing, so it could hardly be called a challenge. We even repeated it a few times.
Otherwise, I’ve never had an interest in participating in trendy c hallenges.
This weekend, I was pulling out our gifts from Christmas spent at my mother’s house.
One of the gifts I grabbed was a coffin-shaped box that said, “2020 Paqui One Chip Challenge.”
I had heard of these before and had seen a few videos of people eating them on YouTube.
It wasn’t a gift I had received, so I figured it was given to my husband, Chris, and I just somehow missed him opening it.
My nephew, Dillon, who often proclaims to be the king of heat and can handle anything, was visiting at the time so I held up the box and said, “Y’all want to give this a go?’”
And so, Dillon, Chris and I stood around this box. The cover featured a skull with flames coming from its mouth with the words, “Inside: One extremely hot tortilla chip.”
The back of the box showed a skeleton hand holding a Carolina Reaper Pepper and the phrase, “The reaper shows no mercy.”
There was also a warning label that said not to eat if you’re sensitive to spicy foods, allergic to peppers, are pregnant or have any health conditions. It continued to say keep away from children, wash your hands after touching the chip and seek medical assistance should you experience difficulty breathing, fainting or extended nausea.
Starting to feel nervous, I wondered if this was a mistake.
Waving his hand dismissively, Dillon said, “They put all that to hype it up, it’s not going to be a big deal.”
And so, I tore open the chip bag, which revealed a single, jet black chip.
The smell and color reminded me of charcoal. I had planned to break the chip evenly three ways, but after taking a closer look, I pinched a piece the size of the tip of my pinky finger with plans to eat more if that wasn’t enough.
Chris got a piece somewhat bigger than mine and Dillon’s was by far the largest.
On the count of three, we all placed the pieces in our mouth at the same time. My initial thought was that this chip was disgusting. I decided to chew as fast as I could to get the taste out of my mouth faster.
As I chewed, the foul taste quickly turned into a burning sensation unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Had I eaten a chip doused in pepper spray?
I quickly leaned into the sink and spat it out, but it was far from over.
As the seconds passed, the pain only grew and intensified. My eyes starting watering, my heart rate was accelerating, my tongue was swelling and my brain was malfunctioning.
I could not think straight because all I could think and feel was this excruciating, searing hot pain.
I looked to my right and saw Dillon convulsing and dry heaving over the sink.
Chris, who apparently had the only working brain in the kitchen, had enough sense to get the milk from the fridge.
We looked like ravenous animals as we clamored to drink from the gallon jug. I poured myself a glass and Dillon took it from me just as I started to drink from it.
I got another glass and quickly learned one thing: It is better to hold the milk in your mouth rather than just swallow.
When even that didn’t seem to work anymore, we started eating ice cream and chewing on ice.
No matter what we did, the pain would continue to rear its ugly head, much like a villain who just won’t die near the end of a horror flick.
The first 10 minutes were pure agony.
My nephew continued to stand over the sink, with milk dripping from his mouth. He later told me he almost had us call 911.
After 15 minutes, the pain slowly began subsiding and I was almost myself again after 20 minutes.
Once we were all able to think clearly and start speaking again, we all agreed this chip was not just hyped up to gain attention.
We also agreed it is something we will never, ever, do again.
I then did what I probably should have done before we ate it, which is research it.
According to the Paqui website, paqui.com, the 2020 chip challenge was their hottest to date.
Since 2016, the chip contained a generous dusting of the Carolina Reaper Pepper.
Apparently YouTube enthusiasts said those chips just weren’t hot enough so in 2020, they released a newer, more intensified chip, which is what we had.
Compared to its predecessors, the 2020 chips contains over 50% more Carolina Reaper peppers (currently the Guinness World Records holder for the hottest chili pepper at 1.641 million Scoville Heat Units) per piece, plus Scorpion Peppers, which are approximately 1.5 times hotter, and Sichuan Peppercorn.
We found a video on YouTube of a woman whose mouth began to bleed from the spiciness. Another video showed a news staff at a Denver TV station, KGWN, where one of the broadcasters vomited behind the desk live on air. The most concerning find was of a 15-year-old in Texas who lost consciousness and began seizing.
Who knew one singular chip could create such mayhem? If you consider yourself a spice enthusiast, like my nephew, I would perhaps think twice before trying out this challenge.
As of now, the chips are sold out on the Paqui website. I’m sure they’ll release more this year, but I do not recommend it. Not even a little bit.
After our experience, I think it’s safe to say my challenge days are behind me for good.
I found out later the reason I didn’t remember my husband being gifted the chip is because it was actually intended for my brother, and it just somehow ended up in my car.
I think he’ll thank me.
Catherine Kirk is managing editor of the Delta Democrat-Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.