Evolving Beyond the Chili Pepper


chili peppers.JPG
This post will no doubt stir the wrath of many friends in New Mexico, where I visit frequently.
I have never been a fan of eating chili peppers — though I seemed to have to when I worked for Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico.
Folks in Alamagordo and Roswell and Farmington and Las Cruces, and lots of smaller places like Cuba, New Mexico or Truth or Consequences — would take to me better if I downed some chili peppers. I still haven’t figured out which of the red or green are less hot and easier on me as they both created “fear.”
I do like them aesthetically. I like to see them hanging on porches of adobe homes and have a bunch of chili pepper shaped Christmas tree ornaments.
But I did eat them, and I figured I had to because folks have been eating those chili peppers since living in the cliffs in Mesa Verde.
So you might understand why I laughed when I saw this Washington Post piece today, “One Hot Archaeological Find,” noting a discovery indicating that humans were using chili peppers to spice up their diet 6,100 years ago.
Was there any doubt?! I have really struggled to try and eat these things out of respect for ancient culture and my presumption that humans have been eating chili peppers for tens of thousands of years.
But I think I’m part of an evolved group of humans who thinks that chili peppers are more about the past — and hopefully less a part of the future.
OK. I know the next thing that will happen is that I will get besieged with chili pepper offers and products, chili pepper advocating emails, chili peppers clandestinely slipped into my soup at restaurants around town, and visits from DC-bound chili pepper growers.
Evolution. I’m a fan. I’m waiting for the beyond chili pepper world.

— Steve Clemons


25 comments on “Evolving Beyond the Chili Pepper

  1. Steve Clemons says:

    Greetings all — interested parties can order the beautiful hanging chili peppers print here.
    best, Steve Clemons


  2. pat says:

    I’m still hoping you’ll post the name of the print and the artist. I love it. And I plan to read up on peppers and cancer. Look at the breadth of information you can get from one comment on a news story! Thanks.


  3. Marc Valdez says:

    As a native New Mexican, all I can say is you don’t have to eat anything you don’t want to, no matter what anyone says, and especially if they try to shame you into something. But the milder green chili might be more suited to your tastes (ripening into red seems to heighten the spiciness). Try chili rellenos – they’re good!


  4. Kyle says:

    I think Senator Bingaman would be ashamed!
    Try the green chile chicken enchiladas at the Shed next time you’re in Santa Fe. If that doesn’t do anything for ya, you’re a lost cause.


  5. Steve Clemons says:

    ucfjoustudent — of course, I know you are right…it was just an intense amount of wasabi, more than normal…It was an odd thought on my part, I admit.
    best, Steve Clemons


  6. Diane says:

    Eat what ever you like but tell me who is responsible for that beautiful drawing? I want one of THOSE for my kitchen !!


  7. ucfjoustudent says:

    re: sushi in Japan
    It’s far less common in the States, but any sushi place worth its salt always puts a decent amount of wasabi when preparing Nigiri. They never spike the soy sauce.


  8. marky says:

    Chili peppers are better than jalapenos, at an rate. I find the taste of a jalapeno to be like burnt garbage. And dont’ get me started on “chipotle” peppers.


  9. formerJourno says:

    A new study has found that capsicum (the hot stuff) kills cancer cells and has been proven to help prostate cancer.
    Steve, don’t bother with the jalapenos, go for the habaneros – yummmmmm. My dad, following a family tradition, used to give us chili pickle on toast for breakfast and so far (knock on wood) no one in my very large extended family has been diagnosed with cancer.
    Spicy food could provide compound to fight cancers
    By Cahal Milmo
    Published: 10 January 2007
    The compound that makes spicy food hot and generates the heat in muscle strain remedies could be the key to a new generation of cancer drugs which kill tumours with no side effects, a leading scientist has said.
    Dr Bates said: “This is incredibly exciting and may explain why people living in countries like Mexico and India, who traditionally eat a diet which is very spicy, tend to have lower incidences of many cancers that are prevalent in the Western world. We appear to have discovered a fundamental weakness with all cancer cells. Capsaicin specifically targets cancerous cells, leading to the possibility that a drug based on it would kill tumours with few or no side effects for the patient.”


  10. Linda says:

    I am referring here to food (and for that matter, sex too), I don’t much care about what our leaders prefer to put into their mouths. The important thing is the truth of the words that come out of their mouths.


  11. Worshipper of the Green Chile says:

    Human beings have been eating wheat since the Neolithic revolution, ten thousand years ago.
    But I’m weary of pretending to like bread and pizza and doughnuts just to please others. It’s about time people started looking to the future and getting beyond this wheat fixation.


  12. Steve Clemons says:

    True story Linda — I was taken to a very fine dinner by Japan’s then foreign policy spokesman, Taizo Watanabe. We had an enormous plate of delicious sushi that we (mostly I) powered through — though i became concerned that the Soy Sauce was spiked with wasabi which I can only tolerate in the smallest doses…I kept changing Soy Sauce jars that was not spiked — until I realized how packed each piece of sushi was with highly potent wasabi.
    I ate it — but don’t really like hot stuff.
    I know, it’s a problem in diplomatic circles and in most cool towns in New Mexico.
    But diplomatically, I ate the peppers and the wasabi…diplomatically.


  13. Danton says:

    There is nothing to fear in a plate of cheese enchiladas smothered in green chili with a side of beans and rice, finished off with sopapillas with honey.


  14. Linda says:

    Well beyond the health and domestic policy issues, it is very important for diplomacy to enjoy red, green, yellow, orange hot chili peppers. Whether it is a private meeting or state dinner, they are especially important in dealing with China, India, Thailand, and Old Mexico among others. Since your area of expertise is Japan, I assume you like sushi and wasabi.
    And the Red Hot Chili Peppers won at the Grammys as did the Dixie Chicks. While in taste in cuisine and music there can be no matters of dispute (and you did ask for it), instead of condiments, we all are eagerly awaiting to hear more about what Condi-meant.


  15. psd says:

    poor Steve…
    all I can say is, avoiding chili peppers is your loss. I too am constantly confused by red vs. green, but nonetheless I have evolved into a confirmed chili pepper lover. It took the better part of perhaps 20 years of frequent vacations to NM and LA, but I am now a true believer not only in their health properties, but also in the fact that they just TASTE GOOD!
    It’s never too late to educate your taste buds!


  16. Steve Clemons says:

    you folks are killing me…
    I knew this would happen. Someone just sent me a recipe.
    — steve clemons


  17. trip says:

    Beyond the chili pepper you will find the jalepeno, which requires a lot more moisture to grow, and is actuallyhotter, than the chili pepper. It has even more antioxidant qualities than the chili.
    And if you can’t stand the heat, there is also the simple bell pepper, which requires even MORE moisture to grow and, it turns out, is better for you than either the jalepeno or the chili — as the single best natural source of Vitamin C and fiber. Really. Especially the yellow and orange ones.


  18. Ben Rosengart says:

    Once again, I have to respectfully disagree, Steve. But that painting you posted makes up for any offense. Who’s it by? It’s terrific.
    Funny that you mention chili peppers and evolution in the same breath. I consider chilis an example of irony in life. They evolved spiciness to keep from getting eaten; and why do we eat them? spiciness.


  19. David says:

    Steve, Steve,
    I assume you aren’t planning to visit New Iberia or Avery Island any time soon. It’s ok not to enjoy chili peppers, but to hope for the passing of Louisiana hot sauce? You are aware that capsaicin is a cure-all for nearly every human ailment, including worms and the miseries, are you not?
    Wonderful note there, infoshaman. Gotta love that development.


  20. JM says:

    Hmm…perhaps you could explain why chili peppers are “more about the past,” from your perspective?


  21. infoshaman says:

    Apparently NW peppers clear the fog of politics:
    “After the latest widely-publicized stories in national newspapers about weapons from Iran allegedly killing Americans in Iraq — based completely on unnamed sources — at least one smaller news outlet has had enough of it.
    The news director of the public radio station in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has directed his staff to ‘ignore national stories quoting unnamed sources’. He also called on other news outlets to join this policy.”


  22. Joan says:

    I didn’t like pepper until I was in Xi’an in 1999. After that, I just couldn’t have enough. Also, I found that the more pepper you have, the more spicy food you can take.
    Good luck to you.


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