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A Spicy Quest is an idea. An idea with immense potential, but for now, just an idea. You can turn this idea into reality.

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Travel is a necessary component of this project. While there is a wealth of research I can and am doing from afar, the heart of the story of the chili peppers is in the people who eat it, and the cultures that have (or have not) adopted it and made it an integral parts of their identities. For that, I must do field research, that is why I need your help.

This story needs to be told

We are what we eat. Chilies transform our food, and therefore, our identities. Its power to spicen food is only matched by its power to define culture. Nothing is more resilient in defining our roots than food.

Amazingly, despite years of scientific research, the chili peppers story has not been told. I want to write and share the an incredible story about how a small fruit from South America transformed the world. I believe that to understand the chili pepper is to understand humanity.

For me, knowing more about the chili pepper will allow me to understand my own culture better. As spicy food grows in popularity around the world, its only becomes more true that the story of the chili is a story about humanity and culture in its most basic form – the food we put in our mouth and how that food makes us who we are.

Challenges

Field research is no vacation, and I have no illusions that it will be. I conducted similar, exhausting work in Uganda and South Africa as part of intense projects during grad school. The truth is, a vast amount of information, especially in developing countries, is not available in books or achives, but in oral histories and people’s actions. It is that which I plan to capture and share.

I am already reading 2-3 hours of academic journal articles and history books a day, just to learn the background information of chili’s origin and characteristics. When on location, I will have to setup meetings with locals and researchers, hire translators in those places where I don’t speak the language, deal with levels of bureaucracy  spend days in archives sifting through information, and determine what information is true and what is not. I expect it to be more than a full-time job, and am ready for the challenge.

I also know what I learn during the research process will likely drastically change my own understanding of the chili pepper. Thus, I am going forward with an open mind, ready to accept criticism and learn. That is why I am calling this a Quest – to understand and to connect people around the awesome power of the ubiquitous chili pepper.

Goals

My main goal – build information and knowledge for the benefit of everyone.

Website – I will be regularly posting articles on the chili pepper, its use, history, cultivation, and spread, along with updates from field sites, and calls for information or help.

Multimedia – This site will become a source of photos and videos of chili pepper plants and usage around the world. Besides posting photos here, I will also share them via other social networks including Instagram, PinInterest, and Facebook.

Book – Once I am finished conducting field research, I will put everything together into a single, book-length narrative, to be published in print and online. All donors will receive either a electronic or print version for free.

All photos, videos, and content on this site is free for anyone to use, with attribution, under a creative commons license, because I want to empower others to also explore their own ideas about food, the chili pepper, and culture. The chili doesn’t belong to any one country or people, it belongs to all of us.

None of this will be possible without support.

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Ethical Spending

As an environmentalist and human rights activist, when I travel, I do it in a way that leaves the world a better place and promotes social good.

Guidelines I will follow while traveling to ensure your donation has a positive impact.

  • Stay with local families or locally owned guesthouses, not multinational chains.
  • Eat only locally produced, ideally sustainable foods.
  • Pay a local living wage to any translators or local assistance I require.
  • Choose the most environmentally friendly form of travel – train, bus, public transport – wherever possible and purchase genuine carbon offsets otherwise.
  • Donate all unused funds to worthy local projects in the research country.

Thus, I hope that this project can not only connect the world through food, but also, in a small way, help develop communities and promote sustainability in research practices.

Accountability

This site exists, alongside active Twitter, Facebook, and other social media pages is to make this project transparent. Regular posts and updates will illuminate the research I am doing, and provide insights into the secrets of the chili pepper. The power of social media and global communications means that, from nearly everywhere, I will be able to participate in a discussion.

Moreover, if you sponsor this project, you will have access to regular updates about my progress. Through this site, I will always be ready to answer questions.

I will also allow any donor to see a detailed list of all expenses. Because I am an experienced budget traveler who not only doesn’t mind, but PREFERS staying with local families in non-air conditioned homes rather than western-style hotels, who enjoys eating street food, and thinks that taking public transit is a great way to explore a culture, I will be able to stretch each dollar far further than a typical researcher might.

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