Reading the latest issue of Maxim, I found an article about chili peppers and the chiliheads who eat them competitively to find the hottest peppers. There are some grand names out there, such as Instant Regret, Colon Blow, Sudden Death, The Widower, and Satan’s Hemorrhoids, but nobody can agree about just what the hottest chili pepper is. I decided to ask a reference librarian just what the hottest flaming vegetable is and see if their answers were at all similar to the Maxim article. My only rules: You must answer my question and the pepper must be real. No Guatemalan Insanity Peppers or whatnot.
I have to work/sleep much of the day while not researching for school, so I decided to use email as well as chat to get answers. I first visited the East Lansing Public Library, the site of my first job, and emailed the reference librarian a question about the hottest chili pepper. I waited until midnight on October 21st and received no response. I will post their URL here anyways: http://www.elpl.org/
That was a bit of a disappointment, but I still love ‘em. Their website is very nice and I am very used to it. There is no exact “Ask a Librarian” feature, but you can email a reference question.
I decided to put the exact words “Ask a Librarian” into a search engine and roll with it. My first result was http://www.askalibrarian.org/ Sounds legit.
This is affiliated with the Florida library system. The response I received was extremely quick, albeit automated. It directed me to 3 articles about hot chili peppers and a Wikipedia link. Except the Wikipedia link was one of the same three links over again and didn’t involve Wikipedia at all, for better or for worse. Here are the three links:
The site itself is stark and to-the-point, just the way I like it. It allows you to chat, (when chat is available) email, text or choose a specific Florida library. It also allows you to see what questions other people have been asking.
While my question was answered speedily, the answer itself cited an incorrect link. I was invited to ask again if my question was unanswered and thanked for using the system. My question was not answered, as the articles all cited different chili peppers.
Moving right along, I checked out a few other libraries, but if I did not see “Ask a Librarian” on their website, I passed. I decided to check out the Austin Public Library because it had been recommended to me as a place to look for a job in the future. Their site is terrific: http://library.austintexas.gov/
I poked around for a while to see what I could see and the features are very nice. I would love to work there. The sites ease of use will impress you. You are allowed to ask a librarian questions via chat, email (which I used) text or phone.
The answer I received by email was the best of all. Meg, the reference librarian, noted that there was a great deal of disagreement and this has to do with the way pepper heat is measured. She came up with the proper Wikipedia link to the Scofield Hotness Scale that the Florida reference desk had failed to link properly: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scoville_scale
She noted that the Guinness Record book had an answer, but it is contested. Peppers can vary widely in hotness among the same species and are averaged out and may not be official enough for Guinness. Meg put quite a lot of work into this, and I appreciate it. She linked me to another article from the Atlantic, which I had been sent to already, and another article I had not yet seen: http://news.yahoo.com/trinidad-moruga-scorpion-wins-hottest-pepper-title-015457622.html as well as the Guinness World Book article: http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/1/hottest-chili. I now have an official answer of sorts.
For my last trip, I checked out the New York University Library: http://library.nyu.edu/
I poked about to see what the site was like. It isn’t as friendly as the Austin libraries site, but it gets to the point quick enough, which is what I like. If you want to ask a librarian something, you can use email, text, phone, schedule an appointment, or chat. This time, I chose to use the chat function. I contacted AskBobst, who greeted me and answered my question about the hottest pepper. He came up with a list of responses that you can see here: http://nyu.libguides.com/content.php?pid=21050&sid=149155
I wish I could tell you that anything on this list was helpful, but it wasn’t. Some of the links failed to load. I had to run, so I did not have a chance to check the links until later. AskBobst was good enough to point out that if I needed further help, the chat desk was open until midnight.
It’s a beautiful thing, being able to ask a librarian. Admittedly, I could have found the answers myself, but I wanted to see if the reference librarians could do a better job than I could. Meg, at the Austin Library, went above and beyond.
I have no absolutely correct answer to the question, but I now know quite a lot about peppers. There are many contenders to the throne from the various sources, including the Carolina Reaper, Butch T, Naga King Chili, and the Moruga Scorpion, which seems to be the winner. If you think I’m going to try any of these chili peppers, sure I will, right after you do. I’ve had buffalo wings that were too much for me. Not a chance.
Additionally, why do these peppers all have names like pro wrestlers?