Pepper, is it going to kill me?
January 24, 2006 9:35 AM   Subscribe

Black pepper: delicious, delightful innocuous condiment or hideous lurking spicy gastronomic menace?

Every time I enjoy a meal with ketchup, I pour out two tablespoons of ketchup, then pour on top of that about two teaspoons of table pepper. I then stir. At this point everyone at the table is looking at me like I'm crazy.

I know that if I did this with salt, I would be dead within the week; but I've never heard any health horror stories about pepper, and the ketchup/pepper mix is such a revolution in dining that I'm sure that, like the practice of putting down your sandwich upside down, anyone who tries it will be instantly hooked.

Are there any hidden weird problems with eating what normal people would consider a relatively large amount of table pepper?
posted by felix to Food & Drink (29 answers total)
I'm totally addicted to what my friends call "pepper with ketchup". I've never had digestive problems, and even if I did I would think it has more to do with the fast food than the pepper-ketchup.
This is assuming you don't do this every meal of every day.
posted by like_neon at 9:40 AM on January 24, 2006

Best answer: Relatively large is so vague as to be useless.

This page describes the documented safety and health effects of constant, large intakes of piperine (the spicy component of Piper nigrum, black pepper) through PubMed citations.

This raw piperine LD50 study indicates roughly what concentration you would have to give to a colony of mice to kill half of them.

Given the average weight of a human adult male, unless you're eating a brick of the stuff with dinner, I'd say you're probably just fine.
posted by Rothko at 9:48 AM on January 24, 2006

Maybe you should switch to a spicier ketchup. Brooks is pretty good for a commercial brand. Damn spicier than that Heinz crap, anyway.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:49 AM on January 24, 2006

And if you're interested in the acceptable levels of insect filth and mammalian excreta by weight, this is the site for you.
"Only clean bamboo trays should be used for sifting pepper. These trays should never be smeared with cowdung."
I went off pepper for quite some time after seeing a film of pepper being processed by bare feet.
posted by fish tick at 10:16 AM on January 24, 2006

Sounds similar to something done in Vietnam to add flavor to pieces of boiled meat in soup. Mix lime juice and ground pepper to make a paste, then dip your boiled meat slices in it before eating.
posted by rxrfrx at 10:47 AM on January 24, 2006

I have three words for you: steak au poivre.

I love black pepper and have on occasion put large helpings on meat products, without any apparent ill effects.
posted by languagehat at 10:50 AM on January 24, 2006

I have a ketchup and pepper addiction. Picked it up in France of all places. It's slowly turning into a peppered steak addiction. Someone please help me!

I learned this weekend that Cantaloupe and pepper (and/or salt) is quite tasty too! (results may vary)
posted by blue_beetle at 11:11 AM on January 24, 2006

Pepper makes everything except chocolate taste better.
posted by onlyconnect at 11:28 AM on January 24, 2006

My mother-in-law was hospitalized within the past year for Diverticulitis, which is an intestinal disease which is, apparently, often associated with (or exacerbated by) things like seeds (esp. things like raspberries and strawberries) and excessive amounts of pepper.

I hate to rain on your parade, but it IS a cause for concern.
posted by JMOZ at 11:34 AM on January 24, 2006

Have you tried fresh ground pepper? It's got a much stronger falvour than the usually stale table pepper you find pre-ground. This way you have to use less, and it's tasiter!
posted by raedyn at 12:29 PM on January 24, 2006

But JMOZ, exacerbate is not synonymous with cause.
posted by fourstar at 12:30 PM on January 24, 2006

Best answer: I get my pepper from Penzeys. If you haven't spent the time to track down high quality pepper, you should do so now. It makes a huge difference over the store bought ground stuff.
posted by y6y6y6 at 12:37 PM on January 24, 2006

I have noticed that too much pepper makes my stomach go nuts..but sometimes it's worth it.

onlyconnect - I disagree! Add just a touch of fine white pepper to hot me :)

I also add a little black pepper to my coffee grounds. It gives a nice little bite.
posted by zerokey at 12:45 PM on January 24, 2006

Seconding raedyn's and y6y6y6's suggestion of buying whole peppercorns and getting a pepper mill. You'll never go back to pre-ground pepper.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:25 PM on January 24, 2006

Yeah, I'm thirding the whole peppercorn recommendation. It's almost shocking to take a whiff of freshly ground quality peppercorns. Also, Penzey's rocks.
posted by DakotaPaul at 1:39 PM on January 24, 2006

I enjoyed this Wikipedia page about Black Pepper. If two tablespoons a day of black pepper were lethal, I'd be dead many times over, and I grind it myself from peppercorns. Like any spicy food, I think it can stimulate intestinal activity a bit.

By the way, 2 extra tablespoons of salt a day would have no effect on most folks who have working kidneys. You'd just pee it out; the amount of water you'd lose doing so might make you dehydrated, but you'd probably get thirsty and make up for it by drinking more.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:20 PM on January 24, 2006

Pepper makes everything except chocolate taste better.

I disagree. Black pepper is a crucial ingredient in my chocolate chip cookies (only about 1/2 tbsp per batch, but it makes a difference).
posted by jtron at 3:56 PM on January 24, 2006

Am I the only one wondering about this "putting your sandwich down upside down" thing?
posted by electric_counterpoint at 4:37 PM on January 24, 2006

Onlyconnect et al. Chocolate and pepper is absolutely delicious when done well. Dolfin pink peppercorn chocolate is to die for. The Earl Grey is even better.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 6:01 PM on January 24, 2006

Someone here seriously eats pre-ground pepper? The flakes? Those don't really taste like pepper at all.
posted by rxrfrx at 6:51 PM on January 24, 2006

Mmmm ... steak au poivre ...
posted by Songdog at 7:04 PM on January 24, 2006

We got a pepper mill when I bought a nice new set of salt and pepper thingees.

I'd never go back to the bland powder pepper again. Yum.

There's nothing wrong with putting your sandwich, bunwich or cheeseburger down upside down, either.
posted by Savannah at 10:12 PM on January 24, 2006

Fresh ground black pepper is the best thing since sliced bread; definitely improves mostly anything.

One personal observation, however, is that when I heap loads of pepper into hot - usually Heinz - cream of tomato soup (yum!), I hiccough involuntarily each time I swallow. The hiccoughs are not normal ones - it's like a spasm upon swallowing and then nothing.
Very odd, but has happened a couple of times under the same circumstances...
posted by Chunder at 2:35 AM on January 25, 2006

Come on... what's the deal with putting down a sandwich upside-down??
posted by ajp at 4:42 AM on January 25, 2006

Response by poster: OK. Here's the deal. You are eating a sandwich, burger, whatever. Notice how your thumbs are underneath the sandwich, with your four fingers above the sandwich when you're taking a bite.

Now, sandwiches -- and particularly burgers -- tend to have a convex top (curving down towards the edges). Partly this is because of the pressure your top fingers exert, part of this is because of gravity, and sometimes it's just the way the bun is shaped.

Conversely, the bottom of the burger/sandwich/whatever is usually pretty flat.

So when you put down your sandwich, instead of lowering your hands to the plate and sliding your thumbs out from under the bottom of the sandwich, try this. Rotate the sandwich so the eating-edge goes upwards and over, bringing your thumbs to the top of the sandwich. Note how natural this motion is. Now your four fingers which were holding the top of the sandwich are supporting the bottom. Place the sandwich on your plate, upside down. Notice that you didn't have to slide your fingers out from under a flat surface; the 'bottom' surface permits easy ingress and egress. Unlike a flat bottom bun/piece of bread.

When it's time to take another bite, simply reverse the motion; put your four fingers under the sandwich, and seamlessly rotate the biting side towards your face.
posted by felix at 10:07 AM on January 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

like the practice of putting down your sandwich upside down

Honest to god, I had no idea there was a rightside-up. Please, explain to this sandwich heathen!

I also had little idea that many people purchase their pepper pre-ground. It seems more than a little bizarre, kind of like choosing stale cookies or expired yogurt.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:50 AM on January 25, 2006

d-oh! Note to self: read thread first, then post.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:50 AM on January 25, 2006

Whoa, I am going to have to try this allegedly delicious pepper-and-chocolate combination of which you all speak!

I think I have already indirectly been doing the pepper-and-ketchup combo, by putting loads of pepper directly on fries before dipping in ketchup. Transfer may be easier by putting directly in ketchup, though. A++ to this thread; would read again!
posted by onlyconnect at 11:30 AM on January 26, 2006

Felix, it's people like you that make me proud to say "I met him through the internet".
posted by ajp at 4:02 PM on January 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

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