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Question for the Day

I've always assumed that spicy foods are most often found in cultures centered in hot areas because that's where the ingredients are most easily found. (As far as I know, chile peppers don't grow in Scandinavia.)

But could there be another reason? Eating spicy food makes one perspire. Perspiration lowers the body's temperature. Could it be that spicy cuisine was developed as a response to heat? Has anyone investigated this?


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I've often wondered this myself. Thanks to the almighty Google, I found out why:

"Recipes from different parts of the world differ widely in their use of spices, as exemplified by these two dishes from Norway and India. Hot climates host bacteria that are more diverse and faster growing than those of cold climates. Often, the bacteria and fungi that attack plants are the same microorganisms that contaminate our food. The spices that plants produce to kill off these microbes may also protect humans when included in the spicy cuisine popular in hot climates."

Via: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/10/4/l_104_02.html

I think that because foods have a tendency to spoil more quickly in the warm climate, heavy and hot spices are used to "salvage" food that is bordering on inedible because it is on it's way out. It's a practical thing...

So now we have four theories:

  1. Spices typically grow in warmer climates.
  2. Spices encourage perspiration, which is useful in warmer climates.
  3. Spices protect against some types of infection common in warmer climates.
  4. Spices hide the taste of food spoiling due to warmer climates.
Pretty cool! Now we just need a definitive answer.

Google to the rescue:

Science Daily

Cornell Edu

and many others, those just were the first few I found.

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