August 1, 2011
Gary Paul Nabhan is one of the pioneers of the native- and slow-food movements, and as an ethnobotanist, his interest has long lain in the effects that climate change is having on plant populations. Along with Iowa chef, gardener, writer and slow-food advocate Kurt Friese and chile pepper agroecologist Kraig Kraft, he fired up an old van they called the Spice Ship and set off on a road trip to investigate how climate change was affecting chile pepper cultivation or foraging. They devote chapters and journeys in Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail to the wild chiltepin of the Sonoran desert; the datil of Florida; the habanero of the Yucatan; the Tabasco of Avery Island, Louisiana; the ubiquitous chiles of New Mexico; and a handful of smaller pepper populations, including the Fish Pepper and the Beaver Dam Pepper. In contrast to Estabrook’s book, none of these peppers is commercially grown except the Tabasco, and even that is an indigenous, unhybridized pepper that must be harvested by hand — but each of these peppers is endangered in various ways: by changing climate, changing tastes, difficulty of cultivation, and the attendant abandonment of small agriculture by people who can no longer make a living at it. The pleasure of this book lies in the stated purpose: “It was a fairly simple idea: to listen. We wanted to listen first hand to the voices in our food system, rather than taking what bureaucrats in the USDA or the Farm Bureau were saying as the gospel truth. We wanted to see with our own eyes how farmers, farmworkers, food marketers, and chefs were already responding to… factors directly affect[ing] our food supply, and ultimately, our food security and capacity for survival.”
Read all of this review and two other worthy books @ Bookslut | Small is Beautiful: Countering Despair with Hope.
May 26, 2011
It seems that over the past few years, there have been a number of books that make us think about food, where it comes from, and how it impacts our health. I’m thinking of Michael Pollan’s many top-selling titles, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, or Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle… the titles are numerous and I’ve been impressed with nearly all of the “food books” that I’ve read over the past few years (in fact it’s become one of my genres of choice). Author’s Kurt Friese, Kraig Kraft, and Gray Nabhan make their own offering to the field with their recent title Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail with a new take on the food book.
Rather than focusing solely on the experience of food or its origins, Chasing Chiles takes a broader glance at the infamous chile pepper and its future in a world challenged by “global weirding” (a more robust term referencing the weather patterns created by global warming used by the authors). The authors follow the story of six different types of chile peppers within their indigenous locations in North America. During each of their pepper “hunts” the roving gastronauts (as they refer to themselves) explore the chile-laced cuisine of each region while taking the time to learn the history behind each species of pepper as well as to glance into its future.
Read the rest at Chasing Chiles – Book Review – Urban Times – Optimistic, Forward-Thinking.
April 7, 2011
Go GARY! Splendid profile of Chasing Chiles co-author Gary Nabhan, his garden and the book in the 4/7/11 edition of the Paper of Record.
THERE was a frost expected here two weeks ago, but Gary Paul Nabhan, a conservation biologist and inveterate seed-saver, was out in his hardscrabble garden anyway, planting his favorite food, hot chilies.
Chiltepin, chile de árbol the one that scrambles up trees, Tabasco, serrano, pasilla, Chimayó. These are only a few of the pungent peppers that Mr. Nabhan and two other chili lovers — Kurt Michael Friese, a chef from Iowa City, and Kraig Kraft, an agro-ecologist studying the origin of hot peppers — collected on a journey that began two years ago, in northern Mexico, and took them across the hot spots of this country.
Read the whole story @ Hot on the Trail of Chili Peppers – In the Garden – NYTimes.com.
March 21, 2011
Ancient Mexicans were gathering and eating chile peppers 9,000 years ago, but the pungent pods didn’t make it to the rest of the world until Christopher Columbus introduced them in the early 16th century. Since then chiles have become an intricate part of cuisines as varied as those of Spain, Hungary, Turkey and Indochina.
The authors of “Chasing Chiles”—Kurt Michael Friese (a chef), Kraig Kraft (an agroecologist) and Gary Paul Nabhan (an ethnobotanist)—observe that the chile has served as a vegetable (think grilled or stuffed peppers), a condiment (Tabasco), a pest repellent, a medicine (in parts of Africa chiles are a remedy for piles, though the cure may be worse than the disease) and even the poison on an archer’s arrow tip. All of which explains why more than 25 million metric tons of chili peppers are harvested annually world-wide.
Read the whole review at Book Review: Chasing Chiles – WSJ.com.