All Spicy Food Is From Latin America

by Pei Chuanjie
All Spicy Food Is From Latin America

If you ever go to Asia (do not do this, it is too big, and trying to comprehend it will only convince you that your mind was never meant to really comprehend anything) and you want to put all the attention rightly back on yourself, the important American, here is a little trick you can use. First, be in one of the countries that makes really spicy food, and then performatively eat stupid amounts of it in front of everyone. Hurt yourself badly, but pretend like you do this all the time. Probably, everyone will laugh and someone will say, “Whoa! Usually Western people don’t like chilis.”

This is your chance. Lean forward, sweating like a giant asshole, wink, and say, “Actually, all spicy food is from the West. Chilis come from Central and South America, and they were brought over here after Spanish colonization. None of your chilis are native to Asia.”

People will probably want to fight you. Because obviously, this is what is called a huge “dick move” in every language on Earth. I personally have a bit of Mexican heritage, and a small chip on my shoulder about the fact that the agricultural and civilizational achievements of Pre-Columbian Meso-America are insufficiently recognized (in 1492, the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan was larger than any European city, until Spaniards destroyed it).

That said, many Indonesians, or Malaysians, etc., do know the botanical history of the capsicum, just like some Texans know that conquistadoresactually brought over their “longhorns” and many Italians know that pasta is probably originally Arab (not Chinese, like in that Marco Polo story, which is fake) and that their famous red sauces often lean pretty hard on the Central American tomatl, (one of a few words from Nahuatl that actually traveled into Western European society, instead of the other way around).

But for people in India or Thailand who don’t know that all spicy food is from the Americas, it can be pretty jarring. Here’s a conversation I just had with a well-educated, multilingual Indonesian.

July 4, 2017by Pei Chuanjie

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