It's interesting to think what the world would be like without pepper. It would certainly be a much duller place, and not just for our taste buds. In 408 A.D. Attila the Hun demanded a huge quantity of pepper as ransom during the siege of Rome. Then consider for a moment that one of the major reasons for Europe's expansion and eventual colonization of south-east Asia was the pursuit of that small hard black seed.
Ever think about where the food on your table really comes from? Maybe not, but it is sometimes a very interesting story. The fact is that a lot of plants don't originate in the places that are most associated with them. I discovered this when researching a book about Thai food a few years ago (sadly, it was never published). I found out that, although the chili pepper is widely associated with Thai cuisine, the chili plant is not native to Thailand, or even Asia. That discovery, along with the ones that followed, form the basis of this web site.
“Traveling Chili” is the story of the journeys plants have taken around the world, to end up at our supermarkets and on our tables. The facts are sometimes stranger than fiction, and there are even one or two radical make-overs along the way. This site also shares some of the local knowledge I've gained about how some foods are used, and I might even share a recipe or two.
The most recent articles published to the site are listed below.
- In Britain £730 million was spent on coffee in 2002
- Britain consumes 500g of coffee per person per year.
- It takes 42 coffee beans to make an espresso.
- Arabica coffee has twice as much caffeine in it than Robusta.
- Over half of the espresso consumed in the UK is drunk in the South East of the country.
- Green coffee beans nearly double in size during roasting, but shrink by 16% by weight.
- From the mid 1800s up until the 1970s, over 50% of Brazil's foreign trade income came from growing coffee beans.
- Coffee, if it were taxed like wine,
Ninth Century--First record of coffee drinking by the Mufti people of Aden (Legend has it that the ubiquitous bean made its way to Yemen from Ethiopia by traveling merchants through trade routes across the Gulf of Aden)
15th Century--Extensive planting of coffee in Yemen
Late 16th Century--Priests petition Pope Clement VIII to ban the evil drinking of coffee (he refuses--probably a closet coffee lover)
Green coffee cherries on a tree.
Pomelo on trees
A banana tree with blossom.
The fruits are not the only part of the banana tree that is edible. The large buds of the banana flower are also eaten in Thailand. The dusky purple blossoms are a bit longer than the average hand and about four inches in diameter. It seems odd to call something so large a "blossom", let alone a "flower."
Large stalks of bananas in the market.
Most of us in the west associate bananas with the Caribbean or Central America, where the "banana republics" evolved in the last century. So some you may be surprised to find out that the banana is not native to the western hemisphere. In fact, it seems to have originated in Southeast Asia. The fruit actually is believed to have its origins in southern Thailand, along the Malay peninsula.
Thai chilies at market.
Fruits on sale in a market.