If you have taken a bite of a hot pepper, the burn you are experiencing is a result of capsaicin—a molecular compound found in spicy peppers.
It never fails. You’re trying to impress the person sitting across the table from you with all of your best manners when you suddenly realize you have taken a bite of something H-O-T! Now what? Do you spit it out? Keep chewing and hope the heat dissipates? Attempt to wash it down with a gulp of soda? Cover your mouth with a napkin and violently scrape your tongue? The answer is… none of the above. The capsaicin in hot peppers has many benefits but can be uncomfortable to the palate when you aren’t prepared.
Here are some tips on what does and does not help in a spicy situation.
Seek Out Sugar
The best way to quell the excruciating sensation is to down a dose of sugar. Grab a piece of hard candy, a chocolate bar in your pantry you’ve been struggling not to eat or the lollipop you picked up the last time you took your child to the pediatrician. Any of the above should do the trick.
Your mouth may feel as if it were on fire but don’t bother with a sip of ice water. It probably won’t help. Capsaicin is oily and the water will more likely spread the heat than subdue it. Carbonation may also make the sensation worse so be careful while chugging your soda or sparkling water.
Dairy products such as milk or yogurt are best for combatting spicy foods. If you are at home, these can be easy to access, but in public, you most likely won’t be ordering a glass of milk with your dinner.
Drink Your Juice
The acid in orange juice, lemon juice or tomato juice is known to neutralize the burn of spicy foods. Covering your tongue with honey is also another suggestion.
Capsaicin is dissolvable in alcohol. A shot of tequila or other strong liquor has been known to make you feel better—certainly one way or the other!
Indulge in the Bread Basket
Bread, crackers, naan, and tortillas are your friends in this scenario. These bread-like foods can help relieve the burning sensation you feel. The best part about this choice is the easy access of bread is generally available at the table. Do not hesitate to reach for a tortilla the next time the spice in your green chile enchiladas takes you by surprise.
Wash Your Hands
If your meal is so spicy you have to spit it out or drink something to relieve the pain, pay attention to your hands. The food substance on your fingers could be a source of heat. Have you ever cut a jalapeno and accidentally rubbed your eye afterward? Keeping spices away from your eyes, nose, and open cuts will prevent you from “feeling the burn.”
For more of Diane’s etiquette tips, you may enjoy Dining Etiquette for the Entrepreneur. Read her posts on Inc., subscribe to her articles on HuffPost, “like” The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook, and follow her on Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. Buy her new book, Modern Etiquette for a Better Life.