As I wade my way through another sweltering day here with temps going over 100 degrees, my appetite continues to wane and inspiration in the kitchen is harder and harder to find. This poses somewhat of a problem considering I write a food blog and am currently promoting my newly released book…on food! Normally, when I get “cooking block” I can stroll the aisles at the market and something will inspire me. But in this ridiculous heat, food is the last thing I want to think about, look at, or worse, prepare in front of a hot stove.
So all that has got me to thinking about Eskimos and Indians. Have you ever wondered why Eskimos don’t have a history of eating spicy food? I feel pretty sure there is no such thing as spicy Eskimo hot sauce. Why? It seems like a good spicy dinner would keep them all warm on the inside as they bunker down in the igloos, snuggle up to each other with 50 lbs. of clothing in between and rub noses. Right?
Likewise, why don’t Indians eat ice cream and gazpacho and sip on frappuccinos all day? No, instead they eat flaming hot curries & drink spicy hot chai. There are over 50 varities of chilis grown in India and when you start to think about it most chilies & spices are grown within reach of the equator. Europe & North America have very few indigenous spices that have heat to them. That is why the spice trade was so important.
In my heat induced mental haze I have decided to get to the bottom of this hot topic and hopefully find some inspiration for a meal along the way.
My little bit of research thus far has opened a “cool” discussion (at least something is cool around here) on “why do those who live in hot climates, eat hot foods?”
Here are a few ideas thus far. I am going to keep this conversation going though until the heat wave breaks.
1. Food goes bad quicker in hot climates, so spices mask the taste of rotting food. (This one turns my stomach and reminds me of why I stay away from street vendors when I am in India).
2. Historically there was no refrigeration, man made or natural, in hot climates so spices could preserve some foods longer and again hide the taste of “not so fresh catch of the day”. (This reminds me of an argument I once heard in India that Hindus don’t eat meat not because of true religious based theory but rather that rancid meat was making everyone ill so the “gods” declared meat off limits.)
3. Spice stimulates the appetite and assists with digestion; both of which naturally slow in hot weather.
4. Capsaicin, the chemical found in spicy foods, actually works in the central nervous system to push hot blood to the skin AND it dilates the capillaries in skin so that a person SWEATS. Sweating cools the body.
5. Spicy foods make you want to drink water.
6. Eating spicy foods trigger your endorphins and give a person that natural “pain with my pleasure” reaction. This is so true for me. It is always a personal challenge to see how much wasabi I can put on my tuna or how much hotter than hell hot sauce I can drown my taco in. I love it and then I tear up, get that brain on fire feeling and reach for anything to put out the flames. I know you know what I am talking about.
I am not sure I have my appetite back yet but I am thinking spicy thoughts now. Hot and spicy. A Haute Curry? Could that be my next inspired meal?
Let me know what you think about all this hot stuff 🙂 I’ll be in the 94 degree pool thinking about the Eskimos.