Beyond the burn

I am from South america, and for some reason, in the U.S. this is synonymous with liking spicy foods. FALSE!

For one, South american sasón is very mild relative to comparable dishes in Central america. And even then, Central american food does not stand as spicy when compared to other world cuisines. For instance, I have an Indian roommate, and the level of spice in her cooking is almost unbearable not only to my palate, but to my eyes, my nose, and my skin… The simple cooking of the curry is enough to trigger an unmatched episode of sneezing. In fact, I have woken up from my sleep when she is cooking because I feel like I am asphyxiating.

The nature of my relationship with spicy food has been purely exploratory: “this is different, let’s try it”…followed by “wow that was intense! let’s try it another time”, or “oh holy hell! it’s impossible to eat!”, or “Dear Lord, I’m burning, crying, and sweating… all at the same time”.

At  various points I remember having tried to make an effort to actually like spicy foods and incorporate them into my cooking. The first time was after I visited Thailand and came back full of new ideas regarding ginger and garlic and chili peppers; the second was my last year of college when my group of friends was very diverse and included people from India, Bangladesh, Korea, Turkey, Iran, and other countries with distinctively flavorful cuisines. However, every attempt was shortly lived.

That I’ve failed to incorporate spices and strong flavors in my cooking together with the fact that my digestive system is rather sensitive has turned me into some sort an anti-spice girl (no pun intended). However, today I found an opportunity for transcendence in spice.

Today I learned that all bell peppers are fruits. Some are also very spicy. However, over time you can develop a tolerance for the spice, only then you will actually start understanding and appreciating the incredible amount of flavor the pepper has. I like this concept, I think it’s a rather colorful (or rather flavorful) analogy with some practical advice about how to handle some of live’s “sinsabores”, or unpleasantness, as we call it in Spanish.

Beyond the fire, lies the flavor. Burn enough, but just enough, and become able to enjoy taste. Tonight at the household, the menu has been chosen by consensus (yet not unanimity) to be beef chili. I’ll accept the challenge, in spirit. Of course, I’ll be eating grilled chicken.




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