Clustered on your tongue, in your mouth and on your skin are thousands of TRPV1 thermoreceptors. Their function is to kick into action at temperatures about 43C and above to initiate a pain response and trigger some protective measures to try to cool us down and dissipate the heat - things like producing sweat.
Now, by complete accident it turns out that a couple of non-heat-related enzymes also bond to these receptors - one of them being capsaicin, the active ingredient in chilli peppers. That's why we perceive spicy foods as "hot". They're not really. It's an illusion created by those TRPV1 receptors!
So why do human beings deliberately subject themselves to that pain response by eating spicy food and adding capsaicin-rich sauces to all foods? One theory floating around the scientific community is that prolonged exposure to capsaicin causes a desensitization of the TRPV1 receptors. ie., eat more spicy food and feel the actual heat a little bit less!
Given the successive heatwaves that have hit Toronto this summer - and global warming trends in general - maybe one response is to amp up your intake of hot sauce. Toronto produces some exceptional hot sauces and spicy condiments from a number of different traditions - including Okazu fermented sesame chilli and Mado's Dominican pepper sauce, both featured here on the blog in recent posts - but the flag-bearer for the recent explosion of heatwaves of flavour in this city has got to be No. 7 Mexican Hot Sauces.
Founded in the Junction Triangle in 2013 by the husband and wife team of Sandra and Carlos Flores, they offer a line of hot sauces ranging "from Mild to Wild" with no added preservatives, sodium or sugar. They are soy/dairy free, gluten-free, peanut-free, as well as vegan. Try the sweeter Pasilla (made with tequila!) or the smoky Chipotle or challenge yourself to the Habanero-Ghost Pepper blend (softened somewhat by the presence of cauliflower and carrot in the mix).
Remember, you may be preparing your body to handle the heatwaves still to come!