Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Red Hot Chili Peppers

International Food Markets are rapidly becoming as ubiquitous as Starbucks.  Once isolated at the end of a ONE WAY street in a remote neighborhood on the other side of town, you can now find a colorful bazaar of farm fresh produce and key ingredients for authentic cuisine centrally located at a main intersection or even reviewed on an acclaimed food blog. 

How things have changed since my mom packed me and my sisters into the station wagon and drove all the way to South Philly for Buckwheat Noodles and a specific brand of Chili Oil.  Now that Max has officially developed his Daddy's taste for Bulgarian Feta Cheese, we have cultivated our weekly visits to our local Global Food into a festive language blend of not just dairy but also fruits, grains and vegetables.  Max is especially captivated by the endless variety of peppers.Their bright and robust characteristics prompt a fun "Pop Quiz" on colors, shapes and size with the "Grand Prize" of course being that he is allowed to grab at and disrupt their perfect arrangement!

As Max's reach grows to include more Serbian and English adjectives to describe the look of each spice so does my knowledge about their origin, flavor and theme and I am enlightened by the fact that every pepper has its own unique story.  The fiery habanero is indigenous to the Amazon while the sweet purple bell pepper's high heat tolerance is what allows it to ripen to its beautiful Merlot hue and the chile dulce, which unlike its spicy red counterpart, exudes a cheerful yellow zest.  Although rooted in the Americas, the large family of chili peppers have been widely distributed around the world and today India is their largest producer, consumer and exporter.

All these years, I thought Paprika was a bland almost tasteless condiment used to garnish deviled eggs.  You can imagine my expression as I indulged in the generous serving of spicy Ajvar that my husband offered me on our third date, simply calling it "Paprika spread."  I later learned that the popular Hungarian spice is actually made from air dried chiles and was brought to the Balkans under the Ottoman Empire.  Today as a staple in the Serbian kitchen it is found in many specialties including Pungent Paprike, Chicken Paprikash and GoulashThe pursuit of spices inspired explorers to sail the globe and now at a local international food market, a quest for Chile y Limón, Paprika or Vegeta seasoning can easily transform into purchases of natural goods that serve therapeutic or medicinal purposes as well.  After hours researching online for products to end Max's "thumb sucking habit", I found the remedy of fresh Aloe Vera hidden like a precious gem just across the aisle from the Asian pears, smothered between the leeks and elephant garlic.

A "foodie" at heart, my mother has always enjoyed a wide variety of dishes and she'll casually use a favorite spice to, as she says, “doctor-up” a simple recipe.  The liberties taken in culinary science are similar to the mixology of languages that Max exhibits in our kitchen to describe what he wants, where the Macintosh is termed "crvena apple," Frost Gatorade is called "blue sok" and the "banana paKika" in his mind is still probably both a fruit and a vegetable.  Just like in High School Spanish class where we earned extra credit for incorporating geography and history into our studies, Max is enthusiastically earning bonus points for his own wordplay and creativity.