Interesting Stuff from 2002
Chiles Repel Farm-Raiding Elephants
Bam! It’s Spam-Fest!
Michelada: The Latest Beer and Chile Craze
Interesting Stuff from 2001
Red or Green? The Official State Question of New Mexico
A Spicy Toothpaste
Watch out, Gummy Bears: The German Gummy Chiles are coming!
“Flameboyant” Chef Heats Up in More Ways than One
Flaming Hot New Zealand Lamb Mexico-Style
Interesting Stuff from 2000
Cubans Upset with Che Image on Spicy Vodka Ad
Fast Food for Stoners?
And the Raw Popper-Eating Winner Is…
Bosland Wins “Ig-Nobel” Award
Snack Foods Increasingly Spicy
Bits and Bite
As published in the July/August 1999 issue of Fiery Foods & Barbecue
Chiltepin Preserve Officially Dedicated
Indian Food Exploding
Bits and Bites
As reported in the May/June ’99 issue of Fiery Foods Magazine
A Balti Explosion
The Chilli Scene Down Under
Eradicating Hunger in the Workplace
All Creatures Great and Small
Bits and Bites
As reported in the March/April ’99 issue of Fiery Foods Magazine
Chile (Or Is That Chile?) Nomenclature
Mexican Tortilla Subsidies Ending
Indonesian Cafes Endure
Tea Kills Cancer
Food Trends for 1999
Other Predictions (In & Out List)
Bits and Bites
From previous issues of Fiery Foods Magazine
Salsa As Vegetable Stirs Up Controversy
Barry Goldwater, the Congressional Chili Controversy, and the Political Cookoff
Stand Aside Onion Rings
Bits and Bites
This just in
It’s crunch time in the Zambezi River Valley in Zimbabwe and in other parts of Africa. As the human population grows and farmers invade the forests with slash-and-burn methods to find fertile soil to raise cotton and corn, they run into a big problem: hungry elephants who love to raid their fields and gobble down the crops. The farmers have tried many methods to solve this problem, including shooting the elephants and leaving their corpses next to the fields, shooting off firecrackers, and expensive fencing, but nothing has worked. And it’s a serious problem to attempt to dissuade the huge creatures–more than 200 people are gored or crushed to death by elephants each year in Zimbabwe.
Keeping them out with hot pepper fences
Enter two sets of experts with similar plans to use chile peppers to solve the problem: The Mid-Zambezi Elephant Project’s Chile Pepper Company and its Dr. Ferrel Loki Osborn, an elephant expert working through grants from the Wildlife Conservation Society. Because of its use in sprays as a bear repellent, the first plan was to use capsaicin in pepper spray to drive away the elephants. This has worked in some cases, but it was necessary to get too close to the elephants to deliver the spray, and windy conditions meant trouble for the farmer trying to drive them off. Then Jack Birochak, who designs defensive pepper spray canisters, came up with a low-tech launcher that used a bicycle pump and pressurized air to lob a pepper grenade about seventy yards. This device worked, but is now only used on the most stubborn elephants.
Don’t try this at home: Pepper spray to keep away the most stubborn elephants.
Hot chiles, grown together with thorny plants as a wall around more valuable crops.
What was needed, thought Dr. Osborn, was to use the chiles themselves in addition to the extract to deter the pachyderms. The idea came from his observation that farms in the Zambezi River Valley had no plan of design, which allowed the elephants easy access. His plan was to put the most valuable crops in the center of the farm and the less valuable crops–and the chile plants–on the perimeter of the farm. The perimeter consists of the hottest chiles interspersed with thorny thickets of sissal, from which poles and cord fiber are made. Elephants avoid thorny plants and would be repelled if they ate chile pods. Inside the perimeter are poles connected with string coated with grease and oleoresin capsicum–the high-powered capsaicin extract rated at more than one million Scoville Heat Units. Any elephant pulling down the string would be burned on its sensitive trunk. Finally, inside the two perimeters, the farmers first grow cotton, which is not liked very much by the elephants, and finally corn inside the cotton, which the elephants love.
As another repellent, one of Dr. Osborn’s research assistant, Kinos Mariba, invented elephant dung and ground chile pepper briquettes. When the farmers watching the fields and tending fires hear elephants, they throw the briquettes on the fire and let the smoke drift over to the marauding beasts and drive them away.
The combination of the LPD–layered pepper defense–and the chile-dung smoke has been effective. If the elephants pushed through the fence and got burned, they would attempt to rub the capsaicin off their trunks and then wander off for easier pickings. Now the farmers are planting habaneros around the perimeter, and the Chile Pepper Company has been assisting the farmers by buying the chiles from them and making products like hot sauces and jams under the Elephant Pepper Brand. The goals of Dr. Osborn are to create jobs for pepper growers, to protect the farms, and to protect the elephants from being killed.
More information: http://www.elephantpepper.org
Summer 2003 – one year later. We checked with the Elephant Pepper folks to see if the chile-based measures against elephant damage are still working. Elephant Pepper’s Nina Gibson replied: Yes – the chilli is still working very effectively against elephants. In fact we have just got back from the Zambezi valley, where they use the chilli grease on fences and burn the chilli briquettes at night. The farmers there swear by chillies, and elephants have now got accustomed to the fact that their fields are protected, and don’t bother them anymore. “Chillies are excellent, especially for the elephants”, one farmer told us. Fantastic to see it work.
Your always adventurous editor was recently selected as the only judge at the annual Albuquerque Press Club Spam-Fest. At first I was apprehensive because Spam is not a favorite food of mine, but then the organizers promised free bar privileges, so I had no choice but to judge the contest. You might think that I would be put off by dishes named “Afghanispam,” “Spaminator,” and the ominous “Spamthrax,” but I just braced myself with another beer and began tasting. The creations were surprisingly good, and most of them contained some form of chile.
Dave with the Winners (Naomi Castro-Hubbard is on the right).
When I finished the tasting, rating each dish on a scale of one to ten for appearance and flavor, the clear winner was “Holy Cow–It’s a Spam Alfredo,” created by Naomi Castro-Hubbard. It turns out that Naomi is no stranger to this event, as she has entered it for the last 10 years and has won first place on six occasions–each time with a different recipe. Naomi describes herself as a full-blooded New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent now living in New Mexico. Below is her original recipe.
Holy Cow–It’s a Spam Alfredo
1 can Spam, cut top to bottom in strips ½-inch wide and 1/4-inch deep
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon crushed red chile (the hot stuff), or more to taste
1 tablespoon smashed garlic
1 carrot, julienned
6 green onions, julienned
1 small yellow zucchini, julienned
3 large mushrooms, sliced
1 20-ounce jar Ragu Alfredo Sauce
12-ounce package of thin spaghetti, cooked according to instructions and kept warm
In a large skillet, fry the Spam strips until browned; set aside. Add the butter and oil to the skillet and heat to medium. Add the crushed chile, garlic, and carrots and cook for 2 minutes, stirring well. Add the green onions, zucchini, and mushrooms and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring well.
Remove half of the vegetables and set aside. Add the alfredo sauce to the remaining vegetables and cook for 1 minute, stirring well. Mix in ½ the Spam and turn off the heat. Place the cooked spaghetti in a serving dish and pour the contents of the skillet over it. Arrange the rest of the vegetables and spam on top of the spaghetti and afredo sauce mixture in a wheel-like design.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Heat Scale: Medium
From trendy bars in Mexico City to Zarela’s in New York City to the Border Grill in Santa Monica, bartenders are experimenting with the latest enhancement to a cold beer: the michelada. The word roughly translates as “my cold brewski,” and in the words of New York Times writer Tim Weiner, “The fine, dark cerveza shimmered with hints of pepper and lime and spices. It tasted, strangely enough, a little like the best steak I had ever eaten.” Weiner attempted to track down the origin of the michelada by interviewing bartenders, restaurant owners, and Mexican food cooking experts, but he had no luck. But he did discover the ingredients: fresh lime juice, Tabasco Sauce, Worcestershire, soy sauce and black pepper. Amazingly, there is one U.S. manufacturer of Michelada Mix, Habagallo Foods in McAllen, Texas ( www.habagallo.com ). They use habanero powder in addition of Tabasco Sauce, and replaces the soy sauce with tomato juice. There has been no home recipe until now, courtesy of your dedicated staff at Fiery-Foods & Barbecue.
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (Key lime preferred)
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce of choice (or more to taste)
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake well. To serve, place 1 jigger of the mix in a tall glass. Fill the glass with ice, and pour in the beer of choice.
Yield: 3/4 cup
Heat Scale: Mild
The Official State Question of New Mexico is “Red or Green?” Most people–even non-New Mexicans, understand that the question refers to the preference for green chile, the unripe pods that are roasted and peeled, or red chile, the sauce made from the dried red pods. But which do New Mexicans prefer. A recent poll by the Albuquerque Journal revealed that state chileheads prefer green chile by a vote of 58 percent to 42 percent. Not included in the poll was your editor’s favorite: fresh red chile, which makes an extremely flavorful and slightly sweet sauce.
Dave’s Fresh Red Chile Sauce
This method of making chile sauce differs from others using fresh New Mexican chiles because these chiles aren’t roasted and peeled first. Because of the high sugar content of fresh red chiles, this sauce is sweeter than most. Dave harvested some chiles from his garden one late summer day, made a batch of this sauce, and ate every drop as a soup! It makes a tasty enchilada sauce, too.
1/4 cup vegetable oil
8 fresh red New Mexican chiles, seeds and stems removed, chopped (or more, to taste)
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano leaves
Salt to taste
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute the chiles, onion, and garlic until the onion is soft, about 7 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour, uncovered. In a blender, puree the sauce in batches and return it to the saucepan.
Cook until the sauce thickens to the desired consistency. Add salt to taste.
Yield: About 3 cups
Heat Scale: Mild to Medium
Wasabi, a Japanese horseradish-like plant, is pungent enough to clear sinuses and some herbalists say it may help ward off cancer. Now a Japanese scientist says that wasabi, the spicy green condiment that typically accompanies sushi and sashimi, also prevents tooth decay.
The same chemical compounds that give the condiment its pungent taste and aroma work to inhibit the growth of cavity-causing bacteria, said Hideki Masuda, a research director at Japanese food flavorings maker Ogawa & Co., Ltd.
“Wasabi contains isothiocyanates, which have been found to inhibit the activity of an enzyme that plays an important role in the formation of dental plaque,” he said.
Wasabi, made by grating the roots of the Eutrema wasabi plant (not related to horseradish), has long been used for preventing dangerous blood clots, reducing the likelihood of cancer, and as an anti-asthmatic. But the results of Masuda’s laboratory tests mark the first time wasabi has been suggest as a tooth decay fighter. But further experiments are needed to confirm that wasabi could control the enzyme inside the human mouth. “If it is effective in humans, we can expect to see a wide range of applications, including wasabi toothpaste,” Masuda said. “But we might need to add something to mask the pungent taste.” Interestingly, most of the “wasabi” sold in the United States is not true wasabi but rather ordinary horseradish with green food coloring added.
Hot German Gummy Chiles
There are various indicators of a growing interest in hot & spicy in Germany – Suncoast Peppers GmbH started the first German Web hot shop earlier this year, and Deutsche Post issued a chile pepper stamp. Latest hint that things are heating up across the pond are “Hot Chili Peppers Extra Scharf”. These are gummy chiles, which are not just sweet, but actually spiced up with pepper extract (of a 1 to 10 heat scale, we’d give them a 3. Some US-made, similar looking gummy chiles we found were not hot at all). German fruit gum manufacturer Bären-Treff operates candy stores all over Germany, and a Web Shop as well (we are not sure whether they ship overseas, though). The German Web site is at http://www.baeren-treff.de
Some odd German gummy bear sites in English language:
Gummibären-Forschung (gummy bear research)
The Sexual Fantasies of Gummy Bears
Mark Atlas knew he needed a gimmick, something to set himself apart from other chefs. Although he has a Culinary Arts degree from Johnson and Wales University and was a chef for the National Hockey League, he realized that he would be just like other chefs unless he could combine his stuntman training with his cooking abilities. So why not cook shrimp scampi by setting it on fire in the palm of his hand? And why not then set himself on fire to get the attention of the audience? His act has gotten the attention of national magazines and TV shows and his fame is spreading as fast as his flame. Don’t try this at home! Reach Mark at (508) 853-9622.
When not setting himself on fire, Mark develops hot and spicy recipes using his All Star Spice product, which he is currently marketing. His act gives an entirely new meaning to the term “fiery foods.” Serve with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed asparagus with herb butter.
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive oil
4 4-ounce New Zealand lamb chops, medium thickness
2 teaspoons minced onions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger root
4 fresh julienne-cut basil leaves
1 teaspoon freshly chopped cilantro
2 habanero chiles, seeds and stems removed, minced
2 fresh cayenne chiles, seeds and stems removed, minced, or substitute jalapenos, minced
2 tablespoons All Star Spice (equal parts of granulated garlic, granulated onion, Cajun seasoning, lemon pepper, and ground dry mustard)
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 ounces Bacardi 151 rum
In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil. When hot and slightly smoking, lower the heat to medium and add the lamb chops. Sauce for 3 minutes each side, then remove the chops and place them on a plate.
Add all the remaining ingredients to the pan except for the rum and rosemary. Place the rosemary springs in two ounces of the rum in a bowl. Saute the pan mixture, stirring well, for 2 minutes on medium-high heat.
Return the chops to the pan, add the remaining rum, deglaze the pan by stirring, stand back, and toss a lighted match to flambe. When the flame goes out, remove the match. Remove the chops from the pan and arrange on a plate. Pour the remaining pan ingredients over the chops and insert the rosemary sprigs into each chop. Carefully light the rosemary sprigs on fire and serve.
Heat Scale: Hot
Interesting Stuff from ‘2000
Nearly 12 percent of food products bought by consumers are never eaten and are eventually thrown in the trash. That’s the conclusion of University of Illinois researcher Brian Wansink, who wrote a definitive article about the subject: “The Mystery of the Cabinet Castaway: Why We Buy Products We Never Use” in the Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences.
He interviewed 412 families in 1999 and determined that the12 percent of the products had been taking up refrigerator or cabinet space for an average 2.7 years. The foods most commonly thrown out were special recipe ingredients such as canned whale meat, beef brains, chutney ketchup, quail eggs, and (shudder) hot pepper sauce. The major reason that these foods were purchased in the first place is that they were destined for use in meals that just never got cooked.
“People have the best intentions and the highest expectations for using these things as a specific point in time,: said Wansink. “But if that time slips by, they’re hosed.” Wansink found that some of the excess foods in the cabinet are the result of promotions. For example, people will buy an average of three cans of soup from a sale display table, but if the store puts up a sign saying “Limit 12 Per Customer,” they will buy an average of seven cans.
Since the purchase of hot sauces–especially super-hot sauces–was mentioned in his study, I had to wonder about my own refrigerator. Periodically, my wife forces me to clean out the hot sauces that accumulate. But these aren’t castaways, they’re partially used bottles past their shelf-life that are neglected because of the tremendous number of samples sent to me. But I would guess that most of the hot sauces eventually discarded by consumers are in the super-hot category because they sit around for so long before they are finally discarded. At least the hot sauces are partially used before they go into the plastic sack. –Dave DeWitt
Che Guevara, the Argentine-born revolutionary who fought with Fidel Castro, opposed any kind of commercialization and was a non-drinker. Why, then, was his famous image used in a Smirnoff ad that also featured a hammer and sickle motif, with a chile pepper standing in for the sickle? That’s what the Cuba Solidarity Campaign wants to know, and they have sued the advertising agency Lowe Lintas & Partners the picture agency Rex Features in London’s High Court, claiming that the ad trivialized the photo’s historical significance. But the ad agency and picture agency disputed the lawsuit, pointing out that they legally purchased the rights to use the image, which as appeared for decades in Cuba’s tourist industry–imprinted on cigarette lighters and beach towels. In Cuba, of course, Che is revered as a national hero that communists love and children emulate. In the U.K. and to some extent in the U.S., Che’s image is a faddish icon. It is interesting that he was linked in the ad with chile peppers because neither Argentina nor Cuba have particularly hot and spicy cuisines.
Chipotle Mexican Grill, a Denver-based chain of 50 restaurants, is apparently targeting a certain light-headed subculture with its new print ads. The ads show a package wrapped in a bundle that just could be a couple of ounces of wacky weed. In case the reader is too straight to realize what’s going on, the copy reads: “Usually when you roll something his good, it’s illegal.” Underneath the restaurant logo is additional text: “Gourmet Burritos. Addictive flavor.” The ads are totally hypocritical, contends Dr. Alan Ravitz, a drug abuse counselor. How so? Well, it seems that the controlling stockholder for Chipotle Mexican Grill is McDonald’s, which is refusing to order that the ads be pulled. Why? Because the ads are working, that’s why.
Twenty-five people with cast-iron stomachs lined up on February 21, 2000 for an annual jalapeno-eating contest in Laredo, Texas. With drinks close at hand, they vied for the top pepper eater. The contest, sponsored by jalapeño producer, La Costeña, was part of Laredo’s yearly President’s Day celebrations. The winner, Jed Donahue, ate 5 pounds of grapes the night before to stretch out his stomach. Donahue has won the contest five out of the last seven years. This year, he took the contest by consuming a grand total of 105 peppers. The winner received a year’s supply of Maalox.
Dr. Paul W. Bosland, the renowned chile pepper breeder at New Mexico State University, has been awarded the Biology Ig-Nobel Award for developing a jalapeño without heat, ‘NuMex Primavera.’ He was one of ten winners of the award, which celebrates the unusual, honors the imaginative, and spurs an interest in science. “There is some method behind the madness,” said Bosland. “I want all of you to become chileheads, so my dubious plan was to make them mild. Then you begin eating them. Then I’ll make them a little hotter, you’ll eat more. And before you know it, you’ll be able to eat the really hot ones.” Actually, according to Bosland’s senior research specialist, Eric Votava, the work on developing mild jalapeños is based on the industry’s need to make hot sauces and salsas with varying degrees of heat for customers’ tastes.
According to a report in Food Processing magazine, snack food manufacturers are adding more chiles and other seasonings than ever to snack foods. “Hotter, rather than simply bolder, appears to be the watchword in new snack seasonings,” said Steve Aanenson, president of Old Dutch Snack Foods in Duluth, Minnesota. “The hot and spicy seasonings are becoming better accepted,” he added. Aanenson, whose company recently released Old Dutch Jalapeño Cheese Potato Chips, believes the hotter flavors hold a better chance of bringing new consumers to a brand. Additionally, he noted that with Mexican and Southwestern seasoning now so widely deployed in salty snacks, the next major challenge for manufacturers is finding a new cuisine or flavor profile that chip makers can use.
A writer to “The People’s Pharmacy,” a nationally syndicated newspaper column, claimed to receive relief from psoriasis lesions by eating hot salsa….The columnists, Joe and Teresa Graedon, replied that they had knew that topical capsaicin creams provided relief, but this was the first time they heard of oral capsaicin working to alleviate the symptoms of psoriasis…
Chiltepin Preserve Officially DedicatedAfter a decade of waiting, Native Seeds/SEARCH, a Tucson-based seed conservation organization, announced that the National Forest Service has officially designated a 4-square-mile area in the Coronado National Forest as a Special Management Area for the wild chile pepper, or chiltepin. The preserve, which is designed to protect and study the chiltepin, is now called the Wild Chile Botanical Area.
For years the preserve has existed under a memorandum of agreement between Native Seeds/SEARCH and the Forest Service. But now, according to Suzanne Nelson, the reserve project’s director, the designation is official and it is the first botanical area to be so designated on National Forest land. Interestingly, the site is not restricted and both human beings and cattle have access to the reserve. The site is the northernmost range of the chiltepin.
“Not to worry,” said Nelson, “because humans have been interacting with chiltepins for thousands of years. Also, cattle do not eat the plants, so there was no need to restrict grazing allotments.”
The wild chiles are believed to be the progenitor of the current pod types of chiles, such as serrano, poblano, jalapeño, and New Mexican. They are spread by birds, who eat the pods and spread the seeds encased in a perfect natural fertilizer. They are not eaten by mammals, who are repelled by the chemical capsaicin, which makes the pods hot. Birds are seemingly immune to the heat. In Mexico, the wild chiles are harvested in the fall and imported into the U.S., where they are sold in small packages. They are one of the world’s most expensive spices because they are not commercially grown.
An article in the March 15, 1999 issue of Restaurants and Institutions says that the cuisine of India will make a “substantial impact” on foodservice, and that because of the complexity of spice blends, it offers endless possibilities and variations.
Not only are traditional Indian dishes making an impact of their own, but the unique flavors are becoming fused with other cooking techniques such as American and French to create culinary hybrids that appeal to an even wider range of diners. “Adventursome and flavorful foods have an addiciton of their own,” the article quotes Abhijit Dutta, chef and vice president of Pondicherry Restaurant Co. in New York. “If you like spicy food, there’s no way back. It’s like going back to a Honda after driving a Mercedes.”
In addition, the Indian flat breads fit right in with the wrap sandwich trend that is currently sweeping the nation. Dawat restaurant in New York offers chicken tikka, seafood kebab, and lamb kebab wrapped in a roomali roti, an unleavened griddle-baked bread for about $10. “Wraps have always been a aprt of roadside food in the north [of India], says Rajesh Bhardwaj, one of the owners quoted in the article. “We’ve had great response.”
…Researchers at Penn State University have found that three water soluble chemicals in garlic reduced cholesterol production in cultured rat liver cells by 40-60 percent. They also found that another group of water soluble compounds in garlic reduced cholesterol synthesis by 20-35 percent…Police officers in Great Falls, Montana became suspicious and arrested a man who was pushing a barbecue grill, along with other items–which were determined to be stolen–down the street at 5:30 a.m. …A woman in Munich, Germany went to court in hopes of halting backyard barbecuing in the garden of her apartment building. She had to compromise with her grilling neighbors, however, on five times a summer–as long as the grill was moved to the far end of the garden…
As reported in the May/June ’99 issue of Fiery Foods Magazine
There’s a culinary revolution going on in England that has yet to reach the U.S. and Canada, and that is Balti cooking. What is Balti, you ask? Well, if you surf on over to The Balti Page, you will discover that “The Balti is an Indian dish representative of a style of cooking which some say is native to Baltistan (Ed. Note: Baltistan is the Pakistani part of Kashmir). It’s a kind of curry, its ingredients usually assembled and cooked quickly in a manner reminiscent of a stir-fry.”
My friend Pat Chapman, founder of The Curry Club and author of Pat Chapman’s Balti Bible, notes that “Balti combines Moghul tastes with the aromatic spices of Kashmir and the robustness of ‘winter foods’ found in lands high in the mountains.” Chiles appear in the form of powders that are combined with fourteen other spices to create Balti masalas, or the basic spice mix that flavors Balti dishes. The Balti food, he notes, is only mildly hot and in some cases has no chile heat.
“One difference between making Balti and ordinary curry,” he writes, “is that curries are served in separate bowls, whereas Balti curries are all mixed up in one bowl.” Hence their resemblance to stir-frys.
The popularity of Balti restaurants has skyrocketed. More than 200 Balti restaurants exist in Birmingham alone, and the Balti Page commented: “Balti in Europe started attracting notice over the last few years in Birmingham in England–particularly in the city’s Sparkhill and Sparkbrook areas, home of some of the oldest and best Balti houses, and now increasingly known as ‘the Balti Belt.’” Word of the wonderfulness of Balti began to spread through the rest of the U.K. and elsewhere, with the result that Balti is rapidly turning into one of the ‘hot’ things in the food world (to the amusement of those of us who’ve liked it for years).”
Now entering its fifth year is The Chilli Press, a magazine for Australian chilliheads that eerily reminds me of the early days of Chile Pepper magazine. Robynne Millward is chief chillihead in charge of an entertaining, Sidney-based magazine and a trade/consumer show called–what else?–the Fiery Food Expo. The most recent issue that I have, January-February, 1999, has features on barbecue, pepper powders, and Basque Heat (from David Karp, who used to write for us at Chile Pepper!), plus reviews of books, new fiery foods products, and hot new chefs. The ads feature intriguing products and services such as chocolate chilli fudge, the Rattlesnake Grill (“a taste of Santa Fe”), chilli jewelry and ceramics, garden centers with chilli seedlings, and at least two chilli festivals in addition to the Expo. One of my favorite ads is for “the fruit juice of the Outback,” Mad Wombat Hot Pepper Sauce. I was also thrilled to see two of my books, The Pepper Garden and Peppers of the World, advertised in The Chilli Press.
Recently we received e-mail from Robynne, who described her situation: “It is still early days for The Chilli Press and Fiery Food Expos. Since the success of the first Expo here, suddenly everyone wants to do a chilli festival. There is no sitting around on your laurels here–it is every man/woman for himself/herself. Perhaps it’s a hangover from the convict days–since Australia is still such a young country and was colonized by convicts sent by ship from England, this is not a new theory and applies in lots of situations! My work is certainly cut out for me but there are interesting times ahead–of that I’m sure.”
To contact The Chilli Press, go to their Web site www.chillipress.com.au or send them e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Their phone number is 011-61-02-9977-0737, but remember that they are 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. You can also send them surface mail at P.O. Box 274, Manly NSW 2095, Australia.
While he appeared to be spinning his wheels in corporate bureaucracy, Dilbert was embarking on an entrepreneurial quest to improve nutrition in the office. The result is “Dilberitos,” a series of 6-ounce vegetarian wraps that contain 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance of twenty-three essential vitamins and minerals, have five grams of fat, no cholesterol, and are lactose-free. Additionally, they are available in four varieties: Mexican, (East) Indian, Garlic & Herb, and Barbecue, each wrapped in a different flavored tortilla, and complemented with its own sauce, including: salsa, mango chutney, garlic & herb, or barbecue. Dilbert creator Scott Adams, who has been a vegetarian for eight years, came up with the idea for these products when he found it difficult to fit good nutrition into his seventeen-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week work schedule. “I started thinking, maybe this product might not only make money,” he said, “but also make the world a better place.” Dilberitos will sell for about $2.29, and will be carried by health food markets, convenience stores, supermarkets, and possibly at Fry’s Electronics.
As reported by Carolyn Jung for the San Jose Mercury News, March 13, 1999.
At the Hokitika’s 10th annual Wildfoods Festival in New Zealand, courageous tasters were game for sampling all kinds of exotic fare. Old favorites included booths selling whitebait wontons and huhu grubs, ostrich on a stick, and possum stew, all of which were accompanied by beverages such as manuka flower and gorse flower wines. Newer attractions consisted of Bull’s Bits, a plate of port and garlic-flavored bull’s brain pate on crackers, bull’s testicles (of which they sold 50 kg–almost 23 lbs.–worth), and sticky white spinal cord, as well as crocodile meat, which cost $2 per cube, and sold out before the day was half over. Another popular attraction was the Startled Worm Cafe booth, which sold worms in both $1 shooters of moonshine whisky, as well as chocolate truffles.
As reported by Jacqui Raymond in The Press, March 15, 1999.
With 1.3 billion tacos purchased at commercial restaurants each year, it’s no wonder that 7-Eleven stores launched El Taco™, a “neat-to-eat” taco made with 2 ounces of beef flavored with onion, pepper, and taco seasoning rolled into the shape of a hot dog, wrapped in a flour tortilla, and served with jalapeños. This represents the latest addition to the store’s Dashboard Diner® series, which focuses on foods that are easy to hold and designed to eat on the run. “The Mexican quick serve food segment has one of the largest growth trends in the United States,” said Joe Horres, 7-Eleven category manager for Grill Items. “In our own consumer tests last October, El Taco™ quickly became the third best-selling grill item, behind the Big Bite® hot dogs. And that’s with no advertising and minimal in-store signange.” Subsequently, however, the new product was given away to half a million customers as part of a promotion in early March.
The top three most recognized food characters, according to Marketing Evaluations, Inc. are the Pillsbury Doughboy, 7-UP Spot, and the California Raisins (still!)….Elsie, the Borden cow, finished tenth, and Ronald McDonald was eighth…Despite pockets of loyal followers, McDonald’s has discontinued its breakfast burrito, probably in favor of its new breakfast bagel, which they hope will attract a loyal adult following…Firefighters put a damper on what would have been a city-wide barbecue fest when they contained an early morning blaze at the Dean Sausage Company in Attalla, Alabama before it reached the cold storage lockers containing $200,000 worth of meat…Perhaps the most absurd recent product introduction and promotion is Light Done Right Dressingology, which purports to link certain low-fat and reduced-calorie Kraft salad dressings with personality types….For example, people preferring Innovative Italian are “full of strength and rugged individualism” while those preferring Infallible Thousand Island are “reliable and true”….We suppose that consumers who favor hot and spicy dressings over the Kraft brands are “intelligent, visionary, and true gourmands”….
As reported in the March/April ’99 issue of Fiery Foods Magazine
A great deal of discussion and controversy has erupted over the terminology of the Capsicum genus in English. There are hundreds of terms for the pods in languages from all over the world, so it is curious that the following terms have been debated with such passion.
Ají. This word, from the Arawaks of the West Indies, was transferred to South America by the Spanish and became the general term there for Capsicums of all varieties, but specifically the species baccatum. It is used in South America like the word chile is used in Central America and Mexico.
Capsicum. From the Greek kapto, meaning to bite, this is the botanical name for the genus and the one preferred by the scientific community. We would assume that there would be little controversy here, except for two drawbacks. First, the term is unfamiliar to most people; and second, the term capsicum specifically means bell pepper in the United Kingdom, Singapore and other English-speaking parts of Southeast Asia.
Pepper. Of course, we know that Christopher Columbus used the Spanish term pimiento, which means black pepper, to describe the Capsicums. According to some writers, this means that the word pepper should never be used for the Capsicums because of the confusion with black pepper. However, in English the word pepper is either plural (“give me some peppers”) or modified by either chile or chili, so the possibility of confusing green pods with black peppercorns is remote.
Chile. This is the Mexican Spanish term for Capsicums, supposedly derived from chilli. It is also used in New Mexico as both a noun and an adjective before the word pepper. It is spelled with an “e” to avoid confusion with chili, meaning chili con carne. Surprisingly, many newspapers in the U.S. have changed the spelling from chili to chile over the past decade. This is probably because of the popularity of Chile Pepper magazine and the many cookbooks using the spelling that have been published.
Chili. This is the Anglicized version of chile that is probably the most popular spelling in the U.S. and Canada. It is also both a noun and an adjective when followed by pepper. It is also the shortened version of chili con carne, the dish with Capsicums, meat, spices, and occasionally beans, so there can be confusion in a headline such as “Fred Jones Wins Chili Contest.” Did he win for the pods from his garden or his bowl of red?
Chilli. Pepper expert Jean Andrews believes that the proper English term is chilli. This is also the British spelling for hot peppers, but her argument goes back to the Aztecs. She writes that the Nahuatl language spelling, as transliterated by Dr. Francisco Hernandez (1514-1578), was chilli. She observes: “That Spanish spelling was later changed to chile by the Spanish-speaking Mexicans, and ‘chili’ in the United States. Chilli is the name most used by English speaking people throughout the world.” This may be so, but the question arises as to the original transliteration. When translating a non-written word into a written language, all kinds of linguistic problems can occur, which is why we call the city Beijing instead of Peking now. If Hernandez was correct, the proper pronunciation of the word would be “chee-yee” because the double L in Spanish is pronounced like an English Y. Since no one pronounces either chile, chili, or chilli this way, why is the spelling so important?
Chile (or Chili) Peppers. This is either a redundant or an extremely precise term, depending on your point of view. It is used to distinguish the plants and the pods from dishes made with them, but purists object to both using chile or chili as an adjective and to using the word pepper.
Conclusion. The many spellings and the syntax of the words used to describe the Capsicum genus will never be standardized. This is because–and we’re not being flip–no one really cares outside of academia, and even the experts there disagree. Languages evolve, and because of the increasing popularity of Capsicums, the terms to describe them are better known and there is less chance of confusion.
Source: The Chile Pepper Encyclopedia, William Morrow & Co., 1999.
On January 1, 1999, the Mexican government lifted price controls on tortillas, ending centuries of subsidies to help the country’s impoverished citizens. Mexicans were accustomed to cheap tortillas and in November, 1998 were paying the equivalent of 60 cents for four and a half pounds of them. However, it should be remembered that minimum wage in Mexico is $3 a day and most Mexicans make less than $10 a day. No one knows how much tortillas will eventually cost after the subsidies end and the tortillas are subjected to market price fluctuations. Citizens were outraged by the thought of paying more for tortillas, but manufacturers praised the government plans.
“The economy will benefit from a free and open market,” said Javier Velez, chief financial officer of Grupo Maseca, Mexico’s largest manufacturer of tortilla flour. “This subsidy was very inefficient because it subsidized 100 percent of the population, not just the poor.” The government has stated that the poor will be helped with some sort of direct aid, but the form of that assistance has not been determined.
The Mexican government is cutting spending to help the economy, which has been hurt by a sharp drop in world prices for oil exports. It has reduced its spending to a 20-year low while increasing taxes and prices for government-controlled goods and services.
As one of the countries hardest hit by the economic downturns in Asia, Indonesia is full of entrepreneurial spirit and sidewalk cafes. In Jakarta, professionals, including bank clerks and real estate developers who have lost their jobs, are setting up small cafes in the patios of their homes, or under tarpaulins on the street. These establishments serve mostly traditional Indonesian specialties, and target white-collar workers who can no longer afford restaurant prices.
Occasionally, food service is halted because of rioting, and soldiers have been seen sleeping under the shelter of some of these makeshift eateries. The Reform Cafe uses as its theme the pro-democracy protests that preceded the downfall of authoritarian rule this past May, and serve foods with names such as “Riot Juice” and “Grilled Democracy Banana.”
The government in Jakarta, where hundreds of thousands are unemployed, enthusiastically encourages the proliferation of these new businesses…and collects 12 percent of the revenues.
As reported by Nando Media and The Associated Press, 12/4/98.
Researchers at Purdue University believe they have identified the chemical compound in tea that reduces the risk of cancer. They found that epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCg, which is found in all tea, inhibits the activity of tNOX, an overactive enzyme that interferes with a cell’s divide-and-rest cycle, and can facilitate uninterrupted growth of cancerous cells when combined with other factors. When EGCg inhibits tNOX, cancer cells can still divide, but cannot grow after dividing, so they die.
In the studies, the effects of green tea were ten times more powerful that those of other teas because its EGCg content is higher.
The researchers do not yet know exactly how much tea people should drink in order to reap maximum health benefits, and will only say that “It’s good for you.”
Source: U.S. News & World Report.
Out with the lean, mean, dieting machines. In with flavor, fat, and convenience.
Several trend-watchers are now saying that Americans are tired of counting calories, and are instead counting minutes in the day, as single-serving foods and meals that can be eaten on the go (preferably while held in only one hand) continue to gain in popularity.
This is evident in many of the “Ready-to Serve” products such as Campbell’s microwavable soup that comes in a 32-oz. container with a screw-top lid and hand grip. The frozen section offers products such as Birds Eye’s Chicken Voila!, which has all the elements of a meal, including the seasoned chicken, in one bag–just heat in a skillet and eat. Undoubtedly many more such innovations are on the way, particularly in light of the fact that Kellogg’s Convenience Food division was worth about $1.6 billion in 1998, comprising 25 percent of the company’s total revenue, according to an article in the Washington Post.
One product that combines convenience with decadence is Sara Lee’s bite-size and single-serving cheesecakes, which comes in flavors such as chocolate-dipped praline pecan, and toasted almond crunch, can be eaten right out of the freezer. The Chicago Tribune quotes nutrition experts as saying: “Many rationalize it’s OK to polish off richer, tummy-busting desserts because they saved a few calories choking down a healthful entree.” In addition, the articles cites that Americans are eating more sugar than ever, and that the sweet stuff accounts for 16 percent of all calories consumed.
This craving for rich-tasting confections ties in with the purchasing of luxury items, the sales of which, says Cornell University economist Robert H. Frank in an article for Newsweek, are growing four times faster than the rate of overall spending. Other luxury food items include specialty meats such as foie gras, as well as caviar and truffles. Specialty food stores that sell pastries, natural, or gourmet products are expected to proliferate.
And not surprisingly, as immigration and overseas travel continue to increase, ethnic flavors, especially those of India, are still in vogue. Because of this interest, spice consumption, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, averaged about 815 million pounds per year between 1990 and 1994, compared with an annual average figure of 540 million pounds between 1980 and 1984. “This growth,” said an article titled 1999 Restaurant Industry Forecast: Food Trends, “reflects a trend toward the use of spices in Asian (lemongrass is particularly big), Mexican, South American and Mediterranean cooking as well as the use of more and different flavors to compensate for less salt and fat in foods.” Ethnic products listed as “hot” include: exotic mushrooms such as cepe, chanterella, enoki, morel, and shiitake; quinoa; couscous; and chipotle chiles. The article also states that balsamic vinegars and infused/olive oils are “gaining an almost cultlike following,” and that deep-fried and blackened foods are being replaced by pan-seared offerings.
As reported by the Wichita Eagle
Empanadas: Mexican-style fruit-filled turnovers that are just the right size to fit in your hand.
Baby greens and tiny sprouts such as beet sprouts, sunflower sprouts, and daikon sprouts.
Pistou: the French version of pesto sauce, heavy on the garlic. Also slated for the hit parade is chimichurri, a Latin American version of this sauce made with parsley instead of basil, which will be popular with backyard grillers everywhere.
Non-fried foods: flavoring with vegetables, onion and garlic instead.
Raw foods: including meat, fish, and vegetables.
Designer potatoes: including finger-size princesse potatoes, purple potatoes, red potatoes, and Yukon Golds.
Caramelized foods such as onions, endive, and apples.
Chilean sea bass.
Wraps: they’ve created a monster by taking a burrito and stuffing it beyond capacity with unrecognizable fillings.
Hummus: past its prime.
Mesclun: too much of a good thing.
Fusion cooking: chefs are now more often opting for simplicity, as consumers demand more “comfort-style” foods.
Additional sources: Boston Herald, PR Newswire.
Mike and Tammy Brulé, owners of Hot-Attack Foods in Ottawa, Ontario, not only manufacture Mike’s Madness Habanero Hot Sauce, but they cultivate what they believe to be the largest collection of hot sauces in Canada. As of January they had amassed over 550 bottles of “strictly pepper sauces–no chili sauces or salsas”–which includes products from as far away as Bali, Peru, and Korea. Other limited edition sauces include the 1990 World Series commemorative Pepper Sauce; the 1997 Texas Motor Speedway Inaugural Limited Edition; the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics commemorative Pepper Sauce; and the #8 (out of 12,000) bottle of the Dave’s Gourmet Private Reserve for 1998. Call (613) 738-9048 for more information.
National TV commercials for Sonic Drive-Ins have been offering a choice between jalapeños and green chile on their hamburgers as fiery foods continue to penetrate into mass-market awareness….Mike Booth, a U.N. military observer from the U.S., was temporarily trapped in the Sierra Leone capital of Freetown in West Africa while Nigerian-led troops drove rebels out of the city. After emerging from hiding, he is reported by Reuters as saying: “It wasn’t too bad. But I missed having barbecues.”….Some of the “unusual” items people confessed to storing in their refrigerators in the recent Jenn-Air Fresh Findings Refrigerator Survey included: sculpted vegetables, fillet of shark, kale to feed a pet iguana, spare car keys, a six-year-old slice of wedding cake and–ten varieties of hot sauce…
Reported in previous Issues of Fiery Foods Magazine
by Dave DeWitt
When it was announced recently that salsa won approval from the USDA as a “fruit or vegetable serving” for the federal school lunch program, salsa makers rejoiced. After all, like millions of other Americans, the manufacturers knew that salsa is loaded with fiber and vitamins A and C. And although ketchup couldn’t make the grade on tomatoes alone, chunky salsas–with onions and jalapeños in addition to tomatoes–did qualify after requests from Western school districts.
But of course, not everyone was happy about this decision. In an editorial entitled “Salsa No Substitute for Real Vegetables,” the Albuquerque Journal (of all newspapers) sniffed: “Two tablespoons of salsa, which is really nothing more than a condiment like relish, onion dip, or guacamole, cannot replace a serving of carrots or broccoli in a healthy meal.”
Oh yeah? Let’s do a little comparison here, matching carrots with tomatoes, the basis of salsas. In the first place, carrots are vegetables and tomatoes are fruits. According to Carol Ann Rinzer’s The Complete Book of Food, both carrots and tomatoes score well in terms of protein (moderate), fat (low), and carbohydrates (high). Carrots score high fiber content while tomatoes score low, but carrots have more sodium. The major vitamin contribution of carrots is vitamin A, while tomatoes offer vitamin C. The major mineral contribution of both is potassium. This would seem to be a dead heat in terms of vitamins and minerals. However, when you add jalapeños (fruits) and onions (vegetables) to the tomatoes to make salsa, there is an increase in vitamin A and iron from the peppers, and calcium from the onions. So assuming that the portions are identical, salsa may well be more nutritious than carrots.
No, salsa cannot be a “real” vegetable because two out of its three ingredients are fruits. But it can be equally good for you despite the worries of nutritionally uninformed editorial writers. Besides, given a choice between salsa and broccoli, which do you suppose most kids would eat?
by Dave DeWitt
We are saddened by the death of former senator Barry Goldwater. He was a chilihead (and chilehead) way before the bowl of red became a national pastime. Fortunately, his culinary legacy lives on at Goldwater Foods of Arizona, where his granddaughter, Carolyn Ross, produces a fine line of spicy specialty foods. And Barry Goldwater’s place in chili con carne history is secure.
In 1974, Senator Goldwater noticed that the National Press Club Restaurant in Washington, D.C. served a Texas-style chili. It is reported that the senator exclaimed, “Texans don’t know chili from shit.” Senator John Tower of Texas replied on the Senate floor that comparing Texas chili to Arizona chili was like comparing Sophia Loren to Phyllis Diller and challenged Goldwater to a cookoff. Senator Henry Bellman of Oklahoma supported Goldwater regarding Texas chili, but indicated that to trade the “ketchup and sand” Arizona chili for the “crude oil flavored” Texas chili would only aggravate the situation.
Senator Robert Taft of Ohio decided that the issue was important enough to take to the Congressional Record. Speaking of Tower and Goldwater, he stated, “Each likened the other chili to barnyard apples, and possibly each spoke truly.” Taft went on to lambast the origin of Texas chili as “Texans mowing down helpless Mexicans and then ransacking their mess kits.” He was, of course, touting Cincinnati chili, which he said “draws on the subtleties of the Balkans for its spicing.”
Senator Joseph Montoya of New Mexico added fuel to the fire by stating that anyone born north of the border could not know anything at all about chili, so he entered his wife’s Mexican chili! The cookoff was judged to be a tie between Goldwater and Tower, but a subsequent cookoff sponsored by McCall’s Magazine was won by Tower. You be the judge. Below is Barry’s recipe as recorded in Chili Lovers’ Cookbook (Golden West Publishers, 1984), followed by Senator Tower’s recipe from The International Chili Society’s Official Chili Cookbook (St. Martin’s Press, 1981). Please note that we have not edited these rather basic recipes except for a definition of the Spanish comino as cumin.
Arizona’s Fine Chili
U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater — Arizona
1 pound pinto beans*
1 pound ground beef (coarse)
2 cups onion (chopped)
1 can (6-oz.) tomato puree
3 Tbsp. chili powder
Salt to taste
1 Tbsp. cumin
*Beans can be soaked overnight, or–if added dry–chili must cook long enough for beans to tenderize.
Saute beef and drain off excess fat. Add onions, tomato puree and beans. Mix chili powder, salt and cumin and add to mixture. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and cook slowly until onions and beans are tender, adding water to desired consistency.
Senator John Tower’s Texas Chili
3 pounds chili meat
15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
3 heaping tablespoons chili powder or ground chile peppers
1 heaping tablespoon oregano
1 heaping teaspoon comino powder (cumin)
2 onions, chopped
Garlic to taste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon paprika
12 red peppers
4 or 5 chile pods
2 heaping tablespoons flour
Sear meat until gray. Add tomato sauce and water, stirring until well blended. Add Tabasco, heaping tablespoons of chili powder, oregano, comino powder, onions, garlic, salt, cayenne, paprika, red peppers, and chile pods. Simmer 1 hour and 15 minutes over a fire of mesquite wood (if possible). Add thickening of 2 heaping tablespoons flour mixed with water. Simmer additional 30 minutes, stirring often.
Serves 6 to 8.
by Margaret Henderson
Green Chile Strips are becoming the hottest selling item in New Mexico and West Texas region Tastee Freeze restaurants. Wayne Collins, sub-franchise holder for the region, says that the new Green Chile Strips “rival onion ring sales at many locations.” The fresh green chiles strips, which are breaded, deep-fried, and served with a nacho sauce, have been on the menu since January, and are currently available in ten out of fifteen stores in the region. Collins said they have been “very, very well received” and are on the menu to stay. Contact: Sunbelt Tastee Freeze, Inc., Roswell, NM, PH: (505) 623-1115.
As reported by Rachel Beck of the Associated Press, 6/8/98.
In the early 1990s, when more Americans were beginning to eat spicy foods, and the market for upscale coffee was just taking off, Altoids, the “curiously strong” mints in dignified tins made their way to America from Britain. “Americans were ready for an extra strong mint,” said Lisbeth Echeandia, editor of Confectioner magazine. “They also liked the tins. It gave them some distinction from the rest.”
Altoids are now the fourth-largest-selling mint in the U.S., and the largest-selling “power mint,” topping $46 million in sales for the year ending April 26, according to Information Resources, so it is not surprising that others companies such as Starbucks, Neiman Marcus, and Alfred Dunhill have come out with their own lines. “The mint and the tin have become the latest gentlemanly accessory,” said Cydney Halpin, Dunhill’s director of marketing.
Even so, regular mints in rolls and shaker boxes are maintaining a loyal following: their sales are now up 16 percent from last year. “The tins look cool, but the mints are way too strong for me,” said one customer at a New York deli. “I feel like my mouth is on fire. I’ll stick to the sweeter stuff.”
Farmers in Japan are using red chile powder bombs to keep monkeys from pilfering their produce. The bombs, which propel the powder into the eyes and noses of the monkeys when they pass in front of sensors, replace electrified fences and wires, which the monkeys outwitted while stealing a half-million dollars worth of produce…. Scientists at Sapporo Medical University in Japan have found that green tea may help prevent foodborne infections, and be effective against E Coli…. Like green tea, black tea may also be useful in neutralizing the cancer risks associated with high-fat diets, reports the scientific journal Carcinogenesis…. Researchers at Ohio State University have found that taking 300 mg. or more of garlic powder every day may reduce aortic stiffness as people age, while separate studies at the State University of New York at Albany have found that people who eat garlic exhibit a lower incidence of stomach cancer, have longer blood clotting times, and lower blood lipid levels (a factor associated with reduced risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease)….