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.
March 20, 2011
From the website eBaumsWorld comes a gentle reminder of the perils of the world’s hottest chile: “I’m having contractions right now.” Kids, don’t try this at home.
March 18, 2011
Authors Kraig Kraft, Gary Paul Nabhan and Chef Kurt Michael Friese (all three involved in Edible Communities magazines) traveled the Southwest and Mexico searching out the story of climate change, the most controversial topic of our time, narrowed through the lens of the tiny yet iconic chile pepper and those who farm, cook and eat this fiery and culturally symbolic ingredient. “We had a hunch that climate change wasn’t just out there—in the polar ice caps and in receding glaciers—but in here, in our food system, in our daily bread as well,” the three self-proclaimed “chileheads” write in the introduction. Surprisingly, the chile is a perfect food to follow; it has spread in various varieties to all six inhabited continents and has found its way into main dishes of numerous ethnicities. Part travel narrative, part gastro-exploration, the first chapter had me hooked. I was also pleasantly surprised to read about a pepper that takes its name from a city right here in Wisconsin.
Read the rest at NOTABLE EDIBLES | Spring 2011.
March 17, 2011
Chasing Chiles is both a rollicking travelogue from three guys on the hunt for authentic food and cultural experience and an adventure with a larger, sobering mission: to understand the effects of climate change by zeroing in on one critical crop and the people whose lives are most deeply intertwined with it. Kraft, Friese, and Nabhan seek out and listen to farmers, chefs, and others who rely on the chile, and document their struggle to protect local foods and livelihoods in the face of unpredictable weather, decreased biodiversity, and sporadic availability.
Courtesy: Gary Paul Nabhan
Over a year-long journey, three pepper-loving gastronauts—an agroecologist, a chef, and an ethnobotanist—set out to find the real stories of America’s rarest heirloom chile varieties, and learn about the changing climate from farmers and other people who live by the pepper, and who, lately, have been adapting to shifting growing conditions and weather patterns. They put a face on an issue that has been made far too abstract for our own good.
Chasing Chiles is not your archetypal book about climate change, with facts and computer models delivered by a distant narrator. On the contrary, these three dedicated chileheads look and listen, sit down to eat, and get stories and recipes from on the ground—in farmers’ fields, local cafes, and the desert-scrub hillsides across North America. From the Sonoran Desert to Santa Fe and St. Augustine the two oldest cities in the US, from the marshes of Avery Island in Cajun Louisiana to the thin limestone soils of the Yucatan, this book looks at how and why climate change will continue to affect our palates and our producers, and how it already has.
via Chasing Chiles Across North America : Gary Nabhan.
March 5, 2011
Everyone loves a book that has a good quest at its center, be it a great white whale, a holy grail or, in the case of ethnobotanist Gary Nabhan, chef Kurt Friese, and agro-ecologist Kraig Kraft, rare and heirloom chiles.Their new book, Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along The Pepper Trail Chelsea Green Publishing, 2011, is a rollicking ride, a “spice odyssey” that begins in Mexico and continues through several places in America where chile peppers are an integral part of the culture. The trio is passionate about its pursuit and, in the grand old tradition of a road-trip story, the book is chock-full of recipes, humorous adventures, chile lore and, most importantly, sobering statistics on the effects of climate change on food and agriculture.
via A rollicking quest for chiles ‘Along The Pepper Trail’ – The Santa Fe New Mexican.
March 1, 2011
SANTA FE, N.M. — There are not many things New Mexicans cherish more than chile.
Not the soupy stuff from Texas or Cincinnati — that is chili, with an ‘i’ — but the fiery red or green sauce drawn from peppers plucked on New Mexico’s sun-soaked farms.
For generations here, locals have slathered their food with it, argued about who serves the hottest and whispered recipes passed on from tias, abuelas — aunts and grandmothers — and even the occasional East Coast transplant.
But these days, the state’s legendary chile industry may be in trouble.
Despite an increased demand around the country, chile harvesting in New Mexico has plummeted in the past 20 years. Farmers and suppliers say they are being priced out by cheaper foreign peppers and betrayed by impostors who falsely claim to sell New Mexico chile in restaurants and supermarkets and at roadside stands.
Read the whole story at the Paper of Record: NYTimes.com.