January 16 is International Hot and Spicy Food Day! Today is a red-hot day on the holiday calendar. It celebrates all foods that make your tongue burn, make your eyes water, and maybe even cause little beads of sweat to form on your forehead. Whether you’re a fan of super spicy salsa, confoundingly hot curry, or jambalaya jam-packed with fiery flavor, today is best served with a side of heat.
Archaeologists have proven that humans have been using hot spices in recipes for over 6,000 years. Christopher Columbus discovered chili peppers in 1493 after he “discovered” America. The chemical in chili peppers that makes them hot is called capsaicin. The capsaicin oil is measured and diluted to determine the amount of “heat” in peppers and give it a place on the Scoville scale. Currently, the pepper which is highest on the Scoville scale, and thus the hottest, is called the Carolina Reaper, which is 300 times hotter than the average jalapeño pepper. People who have a palette capable of handling this kind of heat on a regular basis are known as “pyro-gourmaniacs.”
Hot spices are used the world over to give food that flavorful kick. Not only are spicy foods tasty, but they can also be beneficial to your health due to their medicinal and antimicrobial properties. Chiles, onions, garlic, oregeno, and allspice are known to kill bacteria and make food safer to consume.
Even if you’re not the type of person who likes to put your taste buds into a state of shock, you can still enjoy today by adding a touch of heat to whatever you’re eating. If the heat may become too much for you to handle, make sure to keep a glass of milk or some yogurt handy. While drinking tons of water is usually people’s immediate reaction to foods that are too spicy, doing this will only cause the spicy oils to be dispersed around your mouth because the oil in chili peppers will not mix with the water like milk will.
Whether you’re ready to go all-out on spicy foods today or just enjoy a small amount of spiciness on the side, make sure to add some heat to your meals today!