The foodies of the world raised a collective eyebrow last week when Korean scientists reported splicing genes from the common onion into the DNA of the chili pepper to create a superspice. Only the best informed molecular gastronomers could understand the paper with its talk of butylated capsaicin and tetrahydrocepanols, but the video posted on YouTube of gourmets crying tears of joy and dancing in ecstasy over the flavor of the new frankenfood elicited widespread reactions. As an aspiring reporter of weird news, I seized the opportunity to be the first Western journalist on the scene and caught a flight to Seoul.
I took a cab from the airport directly to the laboratories of the Institute of Food Technology where the mutant onion pepper superspice, christened “opper” by the tabloid media, was developed. There I met Dr. Sunny Park, the brilliant leader of the Institute’s elite superspice team. Dr. Park, a tall ever-smiling woman who wore no make-up, graciously took me on a tour of the laboratory and then led me to the taste-testing kitchen.
English: Crispy Potato Skins with Sour Cream and Sweet Chilli Sauce (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the kitchen she led me to a plain white table bearing a few plates of food. “First, please taste this American-style dish made with opper,” she said. She presented me with a dish of potato skins topped with sour cream. The sour cream, she informed me, was mixed with just one hundredth of a gram of opper.
The flavor of the sour cream and potato skins was spicy, warm, and zesty. I noticed a not-unpleasant tingling sensation in my fingers, toes, lips and the end of my nose. I complimented Dr. Park and the Institute on the excellent food.
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Next Dr. Park stepped over to a refrigerator and brought out some some kimchi. She measured out 100 grams on a scale and then transferred it to a plate. “This Korean-style dish made with one tenth of a gram of opper may be too spicy for you,” she cautioned. I have some experience with Korean food and know a well intentioned warning when I hear one. I declined to sample the kimchi, but Dr. Park ate it up quickly. I noticed at once that her fingers and the end of her nose turned bright pink. Her lips, bare of gloss, now glowed cherry-red. She began to cry and to do a strange hopping dance, possibly to relieve the intense tingling she must have felt in her toes. Hoofing over to a doorway, she pointed to a gentleman sitting at a table in bare room.
“That man is about to eat a dish made with a whole gram of opper,” she told me through her tears of joy. The fellow in the room began to gobble up some curious-looking food. In a few seconds his nose, fingers, and lips begin to redden. Then they blackened. I was horrified to see the blackened end of the man’s little finger fall off.
“Merciful heavens,” I cried. “What do you call that?”
“Opper gangrene style.”