Based on the success of last year’s Garlic Festival, Easton decided to take a page out of both Bowers’ and Bethlehem’s books and add another festival to their year: the first ever Easton Chile Pepper Festival.
Every year the pepper cognoscenti gather in Bowers, PA for what’s billed as the largest pepper festival in the world. Easton’s is quite a bit smaller than the Bowers festival, but still provided a day of fun activities for those out an about. Combined with the usual Saturday morning Easton Farmer’s Market, there was plenty of fresh food to go around. Frecon and Salvaterra’s both had some great looking produce for sale.
The real draw for the day, though, was the peppers. The first thing I tried was the hottest in the line of Dragon Fire Hot Sauce, a new(ish) venture out of Easton that I hadn’t heard of before. My mouth on fire, I headed out to check the rest of the festival.
The Easton firefighters were having a friendly competition between houses to dish out the best salsa. It looked like there was about 13 different kinds available and you could try samples of all for a $2 donation. Various purveyors were located throughout Center Square, some hawking pepper-based stuff, some not. The Easton Salsa Company was on-hand to demonstrate how to make hot sauce. It’s kind of a gross process, with fermentation and mold and such, but the end result is undeniably delicious.
There was some cooking demos, some music, some other stuff as well. But the best thing about it all? The pepper eating contest. Oh man, what a joy it is to watch other people suffer. Personally, I love hot peppers. Jalapenos? OK. Habaneros? Now we’re talking.
So, they had 7 peppers, ranging from mild to damn spicy. They’d go through 7 of them and if there was a tie to be broken, they had a secret hot pepper. This all didn’t go over so well. There was about 20ish people that started and by the end of the 7 initial peppers most were still there. The first 7 peppers were: banana pepper, hot banana, thai, cayenne, lemon drop, white habanero, and yellow habanero. For the tie breaker they dished out a peach habanero to everyone.
I’m not sure at what point it was, but one guy dropped out and puked. The crowd of 100+ cheered and jeered. It was fantastic. So at this point there’s still 8 people and one prize and the organizers have no idea what the hell to do. So they just keep dishing out peach habaneros. It was an endurance contest, not a race. One by one people started dropping. The crowd took notice to one particular man who seemed to give not two shits, not one shit, but no shits at all about eating any of these peppers.
The battle raged on. The peppers were running low. Ideas were thrown out there. Someone arrives with some chocolate habaneros, which one the scale of one to burn your ass for the next 2 days straight is about a 7. They were consumed. People dropped. There were two left, the man-with-the-iron-stomach and a skinny biker-looking guy who was clearly struggling, but still forcing the peppers down. Running out of ideas, they decided that a peach and a yellow habanero together would be good. Both got them down. People started calling out ideas. One caught the attention of an organizer, who proclaimed, “We must do a race. Fastest one to eat x amount wins.” The skinnier guy backs out, a winner is crowned.
The epilogue of all this? I saw the puker doing a fiery walk of shame back to his car about 30 minutes later. He lived (I think). The winner of it all? Well, I saw him the next day at Taste of the Valley (free tickets were part of the prize) where he was there to consume even more food. In quick chat with him he noted, “I’ll be honest, there was a point in the day yesterday where I feel like someone just punched me in the gut. Repeatedly.” Sir, you’re a better man than I and you suffered for the enjoyment of
millions a hundred or so. The El Vee salutes you.