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=Mark

Assessment of Chile Pepper Craze

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I read your 1996 essay on the spread of the Chile Pepper craze to the US in the early 90s with great interest (Yeah, my avatar gives it away). I even make some similar observations in an essay on my site. Being a card carrying Chilehead I've personally witnessed the movement's evolution from the macho "I can eat it hotter than you" mentality to an appreciation of the layers of flavor that judicious amounts of differently prepared chiles can add to a dish. They are still manufacturing hotter and hotter sauces for the thrill seekers, but serious partakers of the fiery pod have gone beyond masochism in their day to day enjoyment of them. You seemed dead on as far as noting the effects that the current immigrant culture was having on the collective embrace of chiles by the US.

I was wondering if there were any aspects of the spreading culture of hot & spicy foods that has caught you off guard since the essay was written.

edited to remove note to mods.


Edited by =Mark (log)

=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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For what it's worth, I think the whole chile craze has had a positive effect on American cooking. There's much to like: the stuff is harmless (unless you get it in your eyes, or worse, as I did once, on your contact lenses), good for you, invites conversation, is easy to use, and, as you point out, can add layers of interesting flavors to your cooking. I use ground dried New Mexican Chimayo as often as I use garlic in my cooking, and for much the same reason. Of course, it can be abused, but even then that happens mostly among consenting adults. And an interest in chile peppers provides an entree into some of the world's most fascinating cuisines. As the years have passed, my collection of hot pepper sauces has thinned down to about three, but my interest in chile peppers, their variety and culinary gifts continues to enchant me. That said, I would like to remind everyone that habanero is spelled without a tilde (the word means "from Havana"), a holier-than-thou-ism on a par with spelling Hass (the avocado) as "Haas"; and take a tip from your old uncle and don't bite into a raw Scotch bonnet pepper unless you REALLY know what you're doing. I didn't, and I really thought I was going to die.

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The learned tolerance for fiery sauces is remarkable. We had a luncheon guest from Dubai, a modest little slip of a girl about twenty. In the course of conversation she confessed that she had never had a sauce in London that was hot enough. Jokingly, I offered her the hottest sauce I’d ever encountered, a mixture so formidable that I season an entire dish by dipping a fork into it, shaking off the excess, and then stirring the pot with the fork.

She took a bit on the end of a spoon, smacked her lips and proceeded to put a generous spoonful on her shepherd’s pie. She gobbled it up without the slightest sign of discomfort. And she wasn’t showing off – she was much too well-mannered.


John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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That said, I would like to remind everyone that habanero is spelled without a tilde (the word means "from Havana"), a holier-than-thou-ism on a par with spelling Hass (the avocado) as "Haas"

We just had a dust-up on the Chilehead list as to whether Habanero was spelled with a tilde (Was started by a commercial grower spamming the list about seeds he sells for peppers allegedly hotter than Red Savina Habaneros, he had tildes all over the place). The consensus was that in classic spanish vernacular the tilde is not used, but as with the various spellings of chile/chili/chilli itself, variations on the proper spelling are becoming more accepted.


=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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the stuff is harmless...unless you get it in your eyes, or worse, as I did once, on your contact lenses...

I did this once too. Horrific experience. Although an old boyfriend once "chilied his willy' by forgetting to wash his hands before going to the bathroom. That was like watching someone with a live chipmunk in their boxer shorts :laugh:

For what it's worth, I think the whole chile craze has had a positive effect on American cooking. There's much to like: good for you, invites conversation, is easy to use, and, as you point out, can add layers of interesting flavors to your cooking.

I agree completely. Even the most dyed in the wool white bread and mayonnaisse eaters can now tolerate a bit of spice in their lives. Salsa is more widely purchased than ketchup. There is a decent selection of spicy and/or ethnic foods even at the grocery store. As Martha would say, "It's a good thing." I'm particularly fond of the Penzey's ground chile powders. They're quite fresh tasting and there's a good variety of them. I make an Ancho Chcolate Bread Pudding that's pretty tasty stuff!


Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I also had the distinct displeasure of doing the "Chile Willie" dance after using the facilities after chopping a bunch of serranos for salsa...firesmile.gif

My favorite chile pepper source is Mild to Wild Pepper Company. Owner Jim Campbell is a full time fireman in Indiana, and started the business as a hobby. He grows all of his own peppers and grinds them and sells his own powders and sauces. One of my favorites is his Apple Smoked ground Red Savina Habenero. Amazing heat and great flavor.

Jim has been featured on several TV Food Network specials, and hosts an annual event called Open Fields. After he finishes his official harvest he invites any chileheads with means of transportation to spend a long weekend in late September to pick as many peppers as thay can for free. Here's an image of early morning Sunday during last Fall's Open Fields:

morningcamp.jpg

I have no commercial affiliation with Jim or Mild to Wild, but have met the man and found him to be friendly, generous and charitable. The guy grows a mean batch of chiles too!


=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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