Friday, April 11, 2008

BARBARELLA DIVA

From Barbarella's article, Hot Stuff:

Despite the burning, watery eyes, and sniffles the stuff caused, it became a part of my daily life. It was no big deal. A little here, a little there, until one day not so long ago, it occurred to me that I yearned for it. Like a cup of coffee or those cigarettes I quit smoking years ago, I found it difficult to get through an entire day without it. Then, last week, I reached a turning point. David, witness to my descent, pushed me to admit that my obsession with heat was no longer a casual one. Hi. My name is Barbarella, and I am a chilehead. ...

As with any new crush, I wanted to learn all I could about the object of my infatuation. I started reading up on its history. I discovered that, according to botanists specializing in pepper genealogy, all chile peppers originated in South America (it wasn’t until the 1500s that peppers first appeared in Asia). The chemical that makes my tongue burn and my heart pound is called capsaicin, and the level of heat is measured in Scoville units, after the guy who developed the technique for measurement in 1912 (by diluting peppers in water and using his tongue to gauge how much water needed to be added before the heat was no longer detectable). I even studied the process of making Tabasco hot sauce. (San Diego Weekly Reader, 04/09/08.)