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Dave's Fiery Front Page

Exploring the World of Spice and Smoke
Tags >> history

 

Jonah 7 Superhot ChileFor the 5+ years that the rumors and then stories about the  superhot 'Bhut Jolokia' from Assam in northeast India have surfaced, I've wondered about its origin.  Pods of Capsicum chinense are found all over the Caribbean, from the Scotch bonnet in Jamaica to goat peppers in Haiti to bonney peppers in Barbados.  However, it is the country of Trinidad & Tobago that seems to have the largest number of land races of that species, including the Congo pepper, the Scorpion, the 7 Pot, and now the Jonah 7, pictured here.  Of all of these, it's the Jonah 7 which most resembles the 'Bhut Jolokia', and the India connection to Trinidad is very clear: 40% of the people have an Indian ancestry, as compared to 37.5 % with an African ancestry.  So it's my theory that sometime after the Indian migration to T&T began in 1845, some enterprising person took Jonah seeds to India and they ended up as Bhut Jolokia, or "ghost pepper" in Assamese.  Recently, Marlin Bensinger, a friend of mine and the world's foremost expert on capsaicin extraction and testing, performed HPLC tests on the Jonah 7, and it was in the precise heat range of 'Bhut Jolokia'.  So maybe a mystery has been solved!  Thanks to Jim Duffy in San Diego, who grew out the pods and photographed them.

My esteemed colleague in Germany, Harald Zoschke, comments: "My theory is that Bhut evolved from Fatalii (which, of course could very well come from Trinidad, brought home to Africa by returning slaves). Please take a look at the attached picture - a Bhut Jolokia and a Bhut and Fataali ComparisonFatalii pod from my greenhouse. To me, they look like close relatives (and there's a Red Fatalii around, too). Now, what if Bhut is a Red Fatalii that trade ships brought from its home, Central Africa, to India, hundreds of years ago. And there, it just got cross-pollinated to receive the C. frutescens gene traces that Paul Bosland's DNA test revealed. Or maybe those genes were in the Fatalii already, which a DNA test could easily prove, providing evidence for my theory. Remember, besides C. chinense, Bhut's Innards of Bhut and FataliiDNA includes 7% of C. frutescens. Fatalii could have picked this up from Malagueta, which had spread early in Africa, becoming pili-pili or peri-peri. Also, while Fatalii isn't quite as hot as Bhut, both share that intense "instant burn," as opposed to the Habanero's delayed burn. And as my pic #2 shows, both share the poor innards, with very few seeds.  Who knows, maybe all three are very closely related."                                                  Fat Bhut

My comment back is that in this particular instance, Harald's 'Bhut' certainly does resemble a 'Fatalii', but pod variations within a land race are common, and sometimes the pods on the same plant have different forms.  See another pod shape of the 'Bhut' at right.  This is because they are land races--adapted varieties that have been growing in the same geographic area for hundreds of years--and not recently bred-to-be-true varieties.  The only way to really figure this out is to compare the DNA of all these varieties.

 


New DD Books Published

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: history , fiery foods , entertainment , books

1001 Best CoverI'm pleased to announce the publication of two new books of mine.  The first, 1001 Best Hot & Spicy Recipes, is a compilation assembled from my rather large recipe archives.  I went through them and selected what I considered to be the best and most representative recipes from all cultures that like to spice up their foods with chiles.  Together with last year's The Complete Chile Pepper Book, these are all you would need to be certified an official chilehead.  I submitted a total of 1059 recipes just to be sure there were enough!  You can order the book at a discount from Amazon, here.

The next book is one that I'm really proud of.  For the second time (after Da Vinci's Kitchen), I abandoned writing about chiles and hot and spicy to try my hand at food Founding Foodies Coverhistory.  Because I graduated from the University of Virginia ("Mr. Jefferson's academical village"), I've always been a fan of Thomas Jefferson, and when I started researching his farming and gardening, that led me to George Washington (a better farmer, actually) and Benjamin Franklin, one of the more famous early American food lovers.  After three and a half years of research and writing, I completed The Founding Foodies: How Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin Revolutionized American Cuisine.  My agent, Scott Mendel, believes that it is one of my best books ever, and I take that a step further:  I think it's the best book I've ever written.  It's not scheduled for release until November 1, but you can pre-order it at Amazon, here.  You will not be disappointed, I promise.  Early American cuisine was surprisingly sophisticated, and both Washington and Jefferson grew chile peppers in their gardens.  Everyone loved barbecue back in those days--when it was mostly a political event featuring smoked ox or whole hogs, plus, of course, a great amount of beer and whiskey.  For more information and some excerpts from the book, see my founding foodies website, here.


South Africans Unite with BBQ

Posted by: Kelli Bergthold

Tagged in: tasty travel , holidays , history , grilling

Braai4heritage Poster 2010This September, South Africans will be looking forward to a big event. No, the World Cup isn’t making a repeat appearance; instead they’ll be turning their attention to another one of South Africa’s pastimes – barbeque. The word braai is Afrikaans for “barbeque” and is an immensely popular pastime in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. September 24 marks South Africa’s National Braai Day, a celebration of the country’s rich cultural heritage.

Similar to a potluck, braaing is a laid back social event. Families and friends get together at a picnic spot or at someone’s home to cook meat and vegetables over an open flame. For most, it doesn’t matter what goes on the braai, so long as it’s good. Popular meat choices include kebabs, marinated chicken, pork and lamb chops, steaks, and seafood in coastal areas. Along with meat and vegetables, South Africans include a dish called “pap,” a thick porridge made from corn.

Nobel Peace laureate and Emeritus Archbishop, Desmond Tutu is the patron of National Braai Day, and has called on South Africans across the globe to throw some meat on the braai to honor the nation’s multi-cultural heritage and the fall of apartheid. While the 78-year-old will be retiring from public life this year, he says will remain the patron of the braai campaign, which aims to unite South Africans in an activity enjoyed by all demographic groups and religious denominations.

“The important thing is all of us on that one day again getting together and just enjoying the fact of being South Africans,” said the Archbishop.

Of course, you don’t have to be a South African to enjoy National Braai Day. Fire up your grill on September 24, throw some meat on the coals, and celebrate along with them!

Learn more about National Braai Day here.


Food Books That Make You Think

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: smoking , science , history , entertainment , books

Savage Barbecue, by Andrew WarnesFood history is a relatively new scholarly discipline, going back onlyCatching Fire, by Richard Wrangham about thirty years.  It evolved from two seemingly disparate human endeavors, cooking and recording general history.  The late food historian Karen Hess observed in 1981: “Few scholars are cooks—and fewer cooks scholars. Perhaps this accounts for the fact that no other aspect of human endeavor has been so neglected by historians as home cooking.” And not only has home cooking been neglected as a subject for historians, so have the history of food ingredients, inns and restaurants, food philosophy, and food in culture—until the last three decades.

Before then, accounts of culinary subjects were “regarded as relevant only to a kind of anthropology of ceremony,” in the words of Paul Freedman, editor of Food: The History of Taste. He goes on to point out that the history of cuisine had been viewed as part of the history of fashion, “hence of frivolity.” In other words, not a serious subject for a historian to explore.  But how that has changed!  The turning point seems to be the publication of Food in History by Reay Tannahill in 1973. It was a bestseller then and is still in print and in the revised and expanded edition published in 1988, Tannahill commented: “When the idea of Food in History first occurred to me, I was mystified by the fact that no one had already written such a book.” Indeed, The New York Times book reviewer observed: “Here at last is what may serve as the first textbook for what should become a new sub-discipline; call it Alimentary History I.” Tannahill continued, “And it came to pass. Since 1973 there has been unprecedented academic interest in the subject and a spate of books on different aspects of it.”  And whether you call it alimentary history, food history, or cooking history, for me it is completely fascinating.

In Savage Barbecue:Race, Culture, and the Invention of America's First Food, Andrew Warnes searches for the origin of barbecue and is alternately overly scholarly and very interesting, especially when he finds great quotes, like this one from journalist David Dudley: "Barbecue's appeal isn't hard to fathom and may explain why barbecue cookery seems such a Neanderthal corner of modern gastronomy.  It elegantly embraces several stereotypically Guy Things: fire building, beast slaughtering, fiddling with grubby mechanical objects, expensive gear fetishes, afternoon-long beer drinking, and, of course, great heaps of greasy meat at the end of the day.  Top this off with the frisson of ritual tribal warfare and you've got the mother of all male pastimes."

Another scholar, Richard Wrangham, in Catching Fire, tracks the origin of cooking over fire back to Homo erectus, the immediate precursor of Homo sapiens, some 1.8 million years ago.  This was about the time mankind first controlled fire, and he notes: "Effects of cooking include extra energy, softer food, fireside meals, and a more predictably food supply during periods of scarcity.  Cooking would therefore be expected to increase survival, especially of the vulnerable young.

Both books are highly recommended but with a warning that they tend to be quite academic in places.  Warnes is a Lecturer in American Literature and Culture at Leeds University in England and Wrangham is the Ruth Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology at Harvard University.


Fiery Foods Show 2010There has been misinformation flying around on certain Chilehead blogs about the National Fiery Foods & BBQ Show. Some folks have been trying to compare our show with a competing show in Texas (which was recently purchased by new people who just managed to put up a website, and no longer has the backing of a certain food magazine that can’t seem to publish a magazine any more).

One comment claimed that the National Fiery Foods & BBQ Show was much larger (that part is correct), but the show in Texas was ‘more fun’ because of free alcohol and parties. Question: exactly why do companies exhibit at shows? Is it to have fun and get free booze? Or is it to promote your product to the largest possible audience? That’s the difference between a festival and a trade show.

Exhibiting at any show is costly and time consuming. Sometimes it’s a lot of fun. So if you’re going to spend that money, doesn’t it make sense to direct your energy where you’ll get the most bang for your buck? The Fiery Foods & BBQ Show is the place.

And about that imagined absence of buyers at the Fiery Foods & BBQ Show. We’re in our 23rd year, and every year our buyer list expands—you do the math. It’s a proven fact that many buyers come to our show every year and make their buying decisions based on what they see.

We appreciate everyone who participates in the Fiery Foods & BBQ Show, either as a buyer, exhibitor, or attendee. Trying to decide which show will be the best for your company? That’s your call. But at the end of the day, Albuquerque is still home to the biggest, the longest running, the Hottest Show on Earth!

Lois Manno
Editor, www.fiery-foods.com
Sunbelt Shows

PS:  Chilehead blogger Scott Roberts has a poll up about what show you would attend in 2011 if you only had one show to go to.  If you like our show, please take his poll (3 seconds max) that is here.


Chile TreeChile peppers are hot, and we love them for it! From mild bell peppers to the insanely hot Bhut Jolokia, peppers can have an incredible heat range. But have you ever wondered why our favorite chile peppers are so hot? Join an American ecologist, his weary team of graduate assistants and scientists, and a curious journalist as they trek through the jungles and deserts of Bolivia in search of the answer.

Read the article from the Smithsonian Magazine by clicking here!


Diana Does It Again

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: history , fiery foods , books

Diana Kennedy

One of my favorite food authors is Diana Kennedy, the doenne of Mexican cooking despite the fact she's British. She's been eclipsed in the Mexican food field by multi-dimensional Rick Bayless, star of books, restaurants, products, and TV. But she's still down south of the border, researching, testing, and writing.

I first met Diana at a food event in Phoenix in the early '80s where we had booths next to each other. I was promoting Chile Pepper magazine and she was pushing her books like The Cuisines of Mexico. We engaged in spirited discussions, mostly about chile peppers and I really liked her. Then we were honored celebrity guests at the Fiery Foods Festival in Sydney in 2000 and I helped her with the set up of her cooking demo. Again, we hit it off.

I just received notice from the University of Texas Press that her new book will be out in September.  And it features my favorite part of Mexico: Oaxaca. I haven't seen it yet, but it looks terrific from the advance press materials.

Oaxaca al GustoOaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy

9.75 x 11.5 in.459 pp., 302 color photos, 12 color maps, 22 color drawings

ISBN: 978-0-292-72266-8.  $50.00, hardcover with dust jacket

Order it here.  Read more about it here.

 



 

 


Rick Browne's New Book Project

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: restaurants , personalities , history , books

Rick BrowneMy good friend, Rick Browne of "Barbecue America" on PBS, has launched a new project entitled A Century of Restaurants and because he has to travel to 100-year-old (and older!) restaurants all over the country and photograph them, he needs help funding the project.  He has found a publisher and has rounded up about 25% of the funds needed, but needs more help with the production of the book.  I am helping him with a donation and I urge everyone else to assist, especially restaurant people. Here's Rick describing it:

I'm starting an exciting new project that will involve a book and later a TV series about America's oldest restaurants. The book is tentatively titled: A Century of Restaurants, but that may change before it's published. To be specific we'll pick 100 century old restaurants from our list of 213 restaurants located in 50 states, and in fact some are 300 years old, a bunch are over 200, the rest have merely been serving up vittles for ten decades!

In a profession where the failure rate for restaurants is upwards of 60% after 3 to 5 years, these centenarian eateries stand way above their newer competitors. We're going to try and find out why they've outlasted hundreds of thousands of other restaurants by visiting these centenarians in person and talking to the owners, chefs, wait staff, and (perhaps most importantly) customers, as to why they think their restaurant has survived and flourished in one of the most competitive businesses in the country. Oh, and yes, we'll probably grab at bite at most of them as well.

I've launched the project on the Kickstarter website, a site which helps authors, movie makers, artists, and other creative folks find funding for their projects, and I would love you to go there, watch my short video, read about the project, and hopefully be inspired to throw a few bucks our way. Here is the web address.

 

 


 

Wilbur Scoville invented the Scoville Organoleptic Test for measuring the heat in chile peppers while working for Parke-Davis pharmaceutical corporation in 1912 in Detroit.  But before then, he was a professor at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston.  A librarian at the Henrietta Benedictis Health Sciences Library at the College was kind enough to track down and scan this photo from an early yearbook at the request of Lee Robinson, a video producer for Jupiter Entertainment, who needed it for a new chile pepper documentary (or reality show--who knows?) he's working on.  Hats are off to Lee, who accomplished a feat that I could not pull off.  Chile pepper history is a little more complete now.  This photo is circa 1909.  For related stories, go here.

 


World's Earliest Pit Barbecue?

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Tagged in: science , history

Remains of a 31,000 year-old mammoth and her calf have been discovered in excavations in the Czech Republic, reports Jiri Svoboda, a professor at the University of Brno.  The meats were cooked luau-style underground.  Svoboda said, "We found the heating stones still within the pit and around."  He believes that the central roasting pit and the circle of boiling pits “was sheltered by a teepee or yurt-like structure."  The researchers also found many stone tools, such as spatulas, blades and saws, which were probably used to butcher the mammoths, which could weigh up to twelve tons.  This is the earliest evidence found so far that early man invented the techniques still used today in Hawaii to pit-roast whole hogs.  Contributing editor Mike Stines describes the technique in his article, here.

The whole hog luau.

In a related story, Neanderthals hunted mammoths and dried their flesh to make prehistoric jerky, reports Bent Sorensen, a researcher in the Department of Environmental, Social and Spatial Change at Roskilde University.  But, he said, "I do not know of any evidence for (them) using salt."  He believes that they boiled the meat first and then dried it.  "As for preparation, boiling is much more efficient and nutrient-conserving than frying, and evidence from more recent Stone Age settlements confirm that meat was boiled in ceramic pots or skin bags," he said. "However, it is still likely that frying over the camp fire was the usual method in Neanderthal communities, since no containers for boiling have been found."




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