Alva Review-Courier -

Hot peppers


September 3, 2021

In 1969, character actor Jack Somack made an Alka-Seltzer commercial that today would go viral. He bites into some spaghetti and states: “Mama-Mia, that’s-a one spicy meatball.”

How spicy do you like your food, pimento mild or habanero hot? I’m somewhere in between, enjoying the flavor of the pepper and not the heat.

Humans are known to eat some really strange stuff – the wet animal market in Wuhan comes to mind – but since chilies have a built-in defense mechanism, why do we eat them? Their natural ingredient, capsaicin, is an example of what scientist call “directed deterrence.” That means pain to predators. Since the seeds are meant to be propagated by birds, birds are immune to the effects of the spice but humans, who chew up the seeds and prevent propagation are not.

Some say Thai food, which is known for heavy habanero pepper sauce, makes your body the target of poisoning as evidenced by eyes running, choking, sneezing and, in some, an asthma attack. Some companies make chili-flavored bird seed to keep squirrels away. That might be fun to watch at the squirrel’s expense.

Not without medical use, capsaicin is an ingredient in over-the-counter medicines for muscle and joint pain and the Aztecs used chilis as an anesthetic during childbirth.

There is a correlation between high testosterone levels and a craving for spice but be careful: stories abound of pepper juice in eyes and atomic-balm in jock straps. As for me, I’ll just stick with Tabasco.


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