Cover Photo: Illustration by Shing Yin Khor for Catapult
Illustration by Shing Yin Khor for Catapult

Burning Your Mouth to Spite Your Heart

I need something that is going to tingle, tell me the food is alive. Because I want to be alive, too.

This is,a column by Noah Cho about how food and cooking can inform our identities.

It’s not hot enough. I need to suffer.


In these moments, my pores push out sweat, my heart races, and I do not think about the other things weighing on my heart. I concentrate only on the next bite—not wanting to stop, addicted to the flames scorching the roof of my mouth. Sometimes I can even feel it in my teeth as I grit down, closing my eyes and letting myself simply feel.


Noah Cho teaches middle-school English in the San Francisco Bay Area. His writing has appeared on NPR's CodeSwitch, Shondaland, The Atlantic, and The Toast. He spends most of his free time going on hikes with and taking photos of his doggo, Porkchop.