The chili pepper is a fiery fruit with the incredible power not only to give food have amazing strength, but to define cultural identity. Originally from South America, now used around the world in vastly different ways. Think of Indian curry, Korean gochujang (fermented chilis), Indonesian sambal (crushed chilis and garlic) or Thai chili paste. It has become, today, nearly impossible to imagine many of these cultures without the chili, yet, it has only been part of their cuisine for a few centuries.
How did this happen?
Amazingly, this story has never been told.
That is where our chili project comes in. We aim to look how the chili spread around the world and became adopted in such incredibly diverse ways, though research, travel, and creativity.
We want to discover
- How did what existed before the chili (for example, pepper influence usage of the chili?
- How was it adopted, and how did it begin to define cultural identity?
There is also the story about the places that didn’t adopt the chili during its rapid spread in the 16th century – for example, Japan, Spain, or Britain, despite their proximity or trade with places that did, such as Mexico, India, and Korea.
Today, though, the chili is making inroads everywhere. This project will also look at how modern forces are influencing the spread of cuisines and chilies everywhere.
There is an incredible wealth of information on chilies, their botanical origins in South America, their genome, their consumption, and studies on the trade routes that may have brought chilies to Asia and Africa.
The story of the chili is a story about humanity and culture in its most basic form – the food we put in our mouth. In many ways, chili peppers were the original globalizing force, transforming our cuisine and, in many ways, our identities. Besides this site, and multimedia web content, the final goal is a full length, mainstream book.
I can’t do this project alone. This is a project that involves all of humanity. Please provide feedback, tell us about resources, share your story, and ask the questions that you’d like to see answered about the Chili. I am also seeking donations to fund my field research, if you are interested in sponsoring this project, please click here for more information.