From Lauren Collins’s piece on chilis in last month’s New Yorker food issue, which piece I wasn’t going to read because I’m not historically interested in capsaicin, but it’s been writing like this that’s kept me going. Look at how this graf moves!
Chiliheads are mostly American, British, and Australian guys. (There is also a valiant Scandinavian contingent.) Chili growing is to gardening as grilling is to cooking, allowing men to enter, and dominate, a domestic sphere without sacrificing their bluster. “I can’t remember eating anything spicy before the parrot came along,” Fowler, a big man with a brushy mustache, told me, in July. The chili world is full of garrulous, confiding, erratic narrators who say things like “before the parrot came along.” In Fowler’s case, the parrot belonged to his father’s brother. “Uncle Jim wanted another parrot, and his wife said, ‘Nope, you’ve got a parrot, and that’s it.’ So he made up this story that my dad wanted a parrot, and next time he visited us he brought one.” The parrot, named Murphy, came with a chili plant. (Birds can’t taste capsaicin.) Fowler quit fishing and started growing habaneros in his bedroom. Soon, he had left his job as a Web designer and founded the Chili Pepper Company, through which he sells seeds, sauces, powders, and products such as Kiss the Devil, a mouth spray made with chili-infused alcohol. “You can have just a little bit before you go to the gym, to get your endorphins up,” Fowler told me.