Red Pepper Scare

By Matthew Yglesias

ttar_crushedredpepperflakes_h

Now that this is officially Mark Bittman’s favorite blog, it seems like a good time to mention that if you should ever happen to be cooking the beef stew recipe from How To Cook Everything you must—must—do your utmost to avoid the temptation to modify the recipe by adding crushed red pepper flakes. I know what you’re saying to yourself, “but Matt, this dish would taste great with a little bit of extra heat.”

And so it would.

But there’s a price to be paid. I cooked the dish before, following the recipe, and the results were great. But cooking it again Tuesday night I, well, I thought maybe it would be tasty to add some of that red pepper goodness. And it was tasty. But it also gave me incredibly vivid nightmares that kept interrupting my sleep. By morning, I was exhausted and feeling ill. This actually led to a successful day of blogging (public policy blogging, that is) since I think I do my best high dudgeon when exhausted and ill. Indeed, my work’s never really regained its peaks from 2003-5 when I didn’t know how to cook and would regularly show up hungover and on three hours sleep. But still! I’m old and grumpy now and need my sleep.

And if you want your sleep, you’ll keep the red pepper flakes out of your beef stew. It’s a fine line between stew and chili and you want to steer clear of that treacherous middle ground.

4 responses to “Red Pepper Scare

  1. I always try to have an open (though often chili-influenced) mind. But how the addition of chili to beef stew (or to anything) can make one ill…it’s just hard to fathom. Capsaicin allergy?

  2. According to both recent medical studies, and traditional chinese medicine, spicy foods can disrupt sleep– the basic idea is that it raises the body temperature and makes it harder to rest. And after a restless night, you usually feel pretty ill/exhausted.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/17/health/17real.html?ref=health

    (much more on google)

  3. There was an episode of food detectives that looked at this, too — perhaps not in the most rigorous way possible, but they did line up a proper sleep lab and seemed to show some correlation between spicy foods and subjects’ sleep being disrupted.

  4. While we are in the area of Red Pepper Scare | The Internet Food Association, The main medicinal property of Cayenne comes from a chemical called capsaicin. This is the main ingredient that gives Cayenne Peppers their heat. Other than adding heat to the capsaicin in Cayenne Peppers also help in reducing platelet sickness as well as relieving pain.

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