a journey inspired by chile peppersAtomic Agriculture on the Rio Grande is Eric Gauger's latest edition of Notes from the Road. In it, he talks about the chile pepper, and why it's so hot, and its impact on world cuisine and cultures. He's on a quest to attend the Chile Pepper Festival in Hatch, New Mexico.
Many people think the chile pepper is from India. This is not true--like the tomato and the potato, it's indigenous to the New World: somewhere in South America. It was brought to Spain by Columbus, and from there made its way to Italy, then on to Asian destinations such as India, Thailand, and Korea.
And as for why chile peppers are so hot, there is a good explanation. You'll find it in this Dispatch. Which is interesting and suffers only from a lack of Gauger's beautiful photographs (I'm hoping he just hasn't had a chance to add them yet?). He felt out of place at the Chile Pepper Festival in Hatch--something I understand because I remember such events I attended as the Potato Festival in Posen, Michigan: it wasn't really meant for visitors, but for the locals who prospered or suffered on the fortunes of the local crop. The modern-day, sanitized equivalent of those Harvest Home rituals.