Beijing, 3 November 2012
Dedicated to my dearest daughter who, like me, dislikes hot spices
In 1558, John Knox, one of the founders of the Protestant faith in Scotland, wrote The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, a diatribe against women rulers. He wrote choice rants such as these:
“Wonder it is, that amongst so many pregnant wits as the isle of Great Britain has produced, so many godly and zealous preachers as England did sometime nourish, and amongst so many learned, and men of grave judgment, as this day by Jezebel are exiled, none is found so stout of courage, so faithful to God, nor loving to their native country, that they dare admonish the inhabitants of that isle, how abominable before God is the empire or rule of a wicked woman (yea, of a traitress and bastard) … We see our country set forth for a prey to foreign nations; we hear of the blood of our brethren, the members of Christ Jesus, most cruelly to be shed; and the monstrous empire of a cruel woman (the secret counsel of God excepted) we know to be the only occasion of all those miseries … And therefore, I say, that of necessity it is that this monstiferous empire of women (which amongst all enormities that this day do abound upon the face of the whole earth, is most detestable and damnable) be openly revealed and plainly declared to the world, to the end that some may repent and be saved … we are debtors to more than princes: to wit, to the multitude of our brethren, of whom, no doubt, a great number have heretofore offended by error and ignorance, giving their suffrages, consent, and help to establish women in their kingdoms and empires, not understanding how abominable, odious, and detestable is all such usurped authority in the presence of God.”
The book goes on in this vein for many pages. Boiling it down to its essentials, his thesis was that women should be in the kitchen and not running countries.
Knox was fond of diatribes and had a nasty habit of whipping people up into a frenzy of destruction with them. The picture below captures nicely what he must have been like when he was in full spate, beady-eyed, beetled brow, and frothing at the mouth.
He reminds me of another tribe of hirsute religious leaders who are currently whipping people into frenzies. I’m sure he would have got on with them like a house on fire – and then promptly burned them at the stake for heresy.
I would have disliked him intensely. I have an aversion to people who shout and scream and hate. And yet … when it comes to the use of hot spices in food I feel my beard growing, my eyes beading, my brow beetling, and froth forming in the corners of my mouth.
By hot spices, I mean those spices that numb your mouth, that put your tongue, palate, inner cheeks and throat on fire and have you groping for water, that make you cry, that make you choke, and generally that kill all enjoyment of the food you are eating.
What in the name of God got into the human species to add this stinking scum to their food??!! What did we do that we now have to punish ourselves for eternity in this way??!! And no-one can tell me that they add taste, because they DO NOT!!!! As for people who actually enjoy hot spices, they are like drug addicts, their enjoyment of this filth is a deviancy; they need to be locked up until they have cold turkeyed!!
I NAME – and SHAME – the Piper genus: 1,000 species! The genus has spread its evil tentacles far and wide. Asia has given the world black pepper, P. nigrum; may a curse fall on those who spread it around the world! But in Asia, deluded, lost souls also eat the Indian long pepper, P. longum, Balinese long pepper, P. retrofractum, Cubeb, P. cubeba, and Prik Nok, P. caninum. In Latin America, poor fools eat Mecaxochitl, P. amalgo, and Matico, P. aduncum. As for Africa, miserable inhabitants of that miserable continent eat West African pepper, P. guineense, and Voatsiperifery pepper, P. borbonense. And who knows how many of the other 1,000 species are eaten only locally by poor, benighted villagers who know no better.
I NAME – and SHAME – the Zanthoxylum genus: only (thank God) 250 species! But at least two of these, Z. simulans and Z. bungeanum, I curse again and again for producing Sichuan pepper, which makes my life a misery at every banquet I go to in Sichuan and other western provinces of China! I emerge from these with numbed mouth and lips, having enjoyed not a whit of the food on offer. The Chinese use other species for the same foul purpose: xiang-jiao-zi (“aromatic peppercorn”), Z. schinifolium, chun ye hua jiao (“Ailanthus-leaved pepper”), Z. ailanthoides, while the Japanese use sanshō (the Japanese pricklyash), Z. piperitum. I am horrified to see that the genus is also present in the Americas and Africa, where no doubt there are wretches who eat the fruits.
But my heaviest, longest, most profound curses of all fall on the Capsicum genus, home of the dreaded chili pepper. There is C. annuum, whose varieties include banana pepper, cayenne pepper, jalapeño pepper, and the ferocious chiltepin; C. frutescens, which contains malagueta pepper, tabasco pepper, and the African piri piri; C. sinense, which incorporates hideously hot peppers like the naga, habanero, Datil, and Scotch bonnet peppers; C. pubescens, whose most notorious variety is the rocoto; and finally C. baccatum, which includes the deceptively named but nastily hot Lemon drop pepper and the Aji Amarillo as varieties. May Diego Álvarez Chanca, a physician on Christopher Columbus’s second voyage who first brought chili peppers to Spain, reside in the deepest circles of Hell for eternity!! And may the Portuguese forever beat their breast for spreading chili peppers to the rest of the world through their rapacious traders!!! And may the idiots who boast of being able to eat the hottest of hot chili peppers have their mouths (and the other end of their alimentary canals) on fire forever and ever!!!!