A Whole New Flavor

My husband accuses me of exaggerating every story when I tell it.  What do I think?  I think he’s just jealous because deep inside, he knows that I’m a better storyteller than he is and he just making a tantrum about it.   Just to make sure he stays put this time, I called his uncle Carlos on Sunday so he would tell me the story that I’m about to tell you in this writing and the information comes first hand and my husband shushes.

Tio Carlos is my father in law’s uncle.  He migrated from Cantabria to Mexico a long time ago.  For one or many reasons,  Sonora’s warm soil attracted him and he ended up establishing and taking root in Ciudad Obregon.   This is why, when he talks, he has this tough Sonoran accent but he also still has Spanish ways and bad words.   Uncle Carlos is one of our most favorite characters.  In Christmas and family reunions, to sit next to him is highly ranked because it’s such a treat just to listen to his numerous adventures.

I called him so I could listen to the story about the peppers he brought from Spain again.  For some reason, this story got stuck in my mind for ever and ever.   Turns out, not long ago, Carlos thought importing Pimiento del Padron seeds to Mexico, this is a variety of peppers originally from Galicia.  These peppers have an intense earthy flavor but they are rarely spicy.    Anyway, Carlos brought the seed and sowed them in Mexican soil with the idea to offer a new flavor to Mexican cuisine which is already so eclectic and varied.  The result of this harvest was tremendously interesting,.   The seed of the Spanish peppers in Mexican soil flourished with no problem at all but the new mexican peppers turned out to be very spicy. Carlos told me that not all of them were as hot,  some were spicy and some were mild.  So, in the same plate, you never know what you’re going to get.

Of course, just by remembering the story, my mouth is watering and now I want to cook the Padron Peppers.  Here in the US we have the “cousin” variety that they call Shishito Peppers, they sound Japanese because this variety in fact comes from Japan, but basically it’s the same thing.  I prepare them just like they do in Spain;  fried in a little bit of olive oil and sprinkles with coarse sea salt.  Of course I finish them all, I don’t compain, they are superb, but not one of them is spicy,  Then, I see the bag and learn that they were produced in Ontario.  No wonder!  They lack the breeze and warmth of our land, they lack Mexico’s sting.

Carlos says that in Mexico, the peppers became hot maybe because of crosspolination,  the pollen that bees carry back and forth from one crop to another, or may in fact be due to the climate, if they were grown during the cold or warmer months.  In my opinión, I think that these Spaniard peppers, in their infinite wisdom, knew that they had arrived to a new land, to a new atmosphere and they felt the urge to adapt.  Their intuition told them this was an unknown land where when people sang they sang, they trully sang, when people danced, they trully danced and when people cooked, they liked to spice their food because they do everything with passion.  They discoverd they had arrived to a land where there is a celebration for everything, even for death.   And they listened to the music of the serenatas and the sayings of grandmothers that the winds brought and they obeyed and transformed themselves and they ceased to be peppers and they became chiles because this was what this coloful and joyful land demanded.

But you know what?  From the whole story, the words that keep dancing around in my head while I eat the last of the Canadian Shishitos, are:  Not all the peppers became spicy, some transformed themselves and some stayed the same.   We better  pay atention to this new era.  This world has changed.  So what might the Earth be asking of us? maybe, it’s telling us  the same thing that it told Carlos’s peppers:  That now’s the time .   Now’s the time when we need to become transform because Earth is demaninng a whole new and intense flavor from us.

Regina Moya, day 46 of lockdown.