I don’t like spicy hot foods, but I grew up eating mild fare. In cultures where hot spices are ubiquitous, does anyone grow up without developing a taste for it, preferring mild food instead?
What makes you think the spicy food is ubiquitous in those countries? I know at least two Thai people who don’t really like food very spicy, and they tell me that’s not unusual. As for India, it’s an even bigger place. The spicy food is from some parts of the country–not all over–and it’s not like the only thing people eat even there.
Well, in Hunan, China, I have not heard of too many people who grow up not being used to spicy food. In fact, I think Hunan might have some of the spiciest foods in the world, even though you didn’t list them in the OP.
Most Hunan people I knew in China would eat at Huna restaurants with me and while I’m crying and sweating(and loving every minute), they would be adding more and more spices. They told me they grew up with it, so they need to spice it up to appreciate it.
In cultures where spicy food is the norm, do babies start out on bland fare and it’s gradually ramped up, or are they used to it from day one because their mom ate it while pregnant and it’s also transmitted through breast milk?
Were hot spices originally added to hide the poor quality of food? I would think areas with poor methods of preservation would spice up the food as much as possible to hide the potentially foul smell and/or taste.
Yes, in Thailand there are a lot of people who don’t like spicy food. In my experience, people living in Bangkok and Chinese-Thais were more likely to be intolerant of spiciness. But in saying that, even people who said they didn’t like spicy food probably had a higher tolerance than westerners who never eat spicy food. A dish considered “mild” by Thai standards might be burning hot by others.
xoferew, in my limited experience kids take a while to get used to spicy food. Maybe in rural areas they start younger, but it seemed that kids did not eat the spiciest dishes, although they probably ate spicier food than the average western kid. For example, I had a higher tolerance for heat than most but not all of my 12 year old students.
I didn’t word the question well; I didn’t mean to imply that everyone eats the same in these countries, or any country. I’m asking about cultures where eating hot foods is very common. I taste for chilies is not inborn (I don’t think), but obviously the vast majority of people in these cultures learn to eat and love hot foods. I’m just wondering if a significant number of (non-allergic) people fail to develop a tolerance and choose to eat mild foods instead.
That may be the case in the past, actually. Wouldn’t surprise me. The food is great now, though, and is the spiciest/hottest I’ve had anywhere in the world.
I have known lots of Thais who do not like spicy food AT ALL. Even my wife does not like it too spicy; a little bit is okay, but not much. These people do seem largely to be ethnic Chinese but not always.
I have an anecdote for this question. I was talking to a guy from the US who really likes spicy food, and I asked him, “When will you introduce your infant to spicy food?” Answer: Never, it’s a decision the child makes when they believe they’re old enough. I’m pretty sure that’s how I was introduced to spicy peppers, I sampled some of the “for Daddy only” foods when I felt I was ready. Turns out, the first time, I wasn’t. But I improved, with time.
Contrast that with the lady from Nigeria, she prepared moderately spicy food for her toddler, and gave it to her.
“Doesn’t she cry?”
“Oh, yes, she sure does. Then I give her her juice, and when she’s better, we try again.” She’ll have to learn to eat spicy food, that’s simply the way food is prepared.
I’ve always assumed that was how people were raised if a certain ethnic cooking style requires ubiquitous spiciness.
I lived in Sichuan Province in China, which I think is in the running for most consistently spicy (and tasty) food in the world. Even simple dishes like cabbage were covered in chilis, and special dishes were so hot that even the Chinese people would regularly cry during meals. Sichuan has very, very, very spicy food.
I met quite a few Chinese people there who did not enjoy spicy food. Quite often it was high-maintenance women who I suspect were just being difficult, but there were some who genuinely couldn’t tolerate it and would stick to the few mild dishes.
Even an ordinary Chinese meal will have a number of dishes to choose from, so children can stick to the milder dishes until the develop a taste for heat.
In China, pretty much all food is considered to have some sort of medicinal property, and balancing those effects properly is a bit of a preoccupation. Spicy food is thought to be particularly well suited to counteract the negative health effects of Sichuans relentlessly damp climate, especially during the steamy, sultry, rainy, furnace-hot summers.
There is a whole cooking philosophy in China behind counteracting “unpleasant tastes,” such as those associated with less-than-great meat, but it’s a lot more complicated than just adding chilies. Chinese culinary theory is convoluted and nuanced to say the least. Anyway, I don’t think “bad meat” accounts for China’s spicy-food areas, given how extremely regional spicy Chinese food is. Surely Sichuan does not have more bad meat than mountainous and mild Guizhou province In any case, Sichuan food is known for being exactly the opposite- it’s considered to be exceptionally fresh and sensitive to quality ingredients.
Well, I’ve met quite a few Mexicans who don’t like spicy food or avoid spicy food due to gastrointestinal issues. One Mexican woman I know even expressed the opinion that it is impolite to serve food with chiles in it- chiles should be served on the side so that each person can add them to their taste.
There’s a concurrent thread right now apropos of this.
I’ve asked various Indians about how they become acclimatized to spicy food, and the usual answer is that when you are old enough, you start getting to go out on your own. Eating street food, which is often spicy, is common when going out. So you really just get started by eating spicy food while hanging out with friends.
I watched a doco on indian food, and a mother said that her baby was feed first feed on plain rice, and then, when it was a bit older, she’d make a “watered down” version of whatever the family was eating, and by the time the child was four or five, they’d be eating like anyone else.
I’ve been in Mexican restaurants and seen children suckling on Jalapeno peppers.