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Liar Liar Mouth On Fire

What is it about spicy food that makes us crave it?

I love spicy food and the general rule over here is the hotter the better, though of course there’s a limit to how far we’ll go (usually vindaloo). We Brits worship curries and it’s been said that we should cast aside our traditional roast dinners and have curry as our national meal instead. Certainly, although we like our roasts, the only objection likely would be history. I’d say Indian restaurants and takeaways at present make up the biggest percentage of international food houses, followed (possibly equalled) by Chinese. We’ve also a thing for Thai food and there are quite a few Greek restaurants, but India has our collective heart.

But the question that came to me, as I sipped the mulligatawny soup to which I’d added a generous helping of black pepper, was why. Why do we like it? The meals themselves are easy to cover in this – India has a spectacular knowledge of how to make great tasting dishes, mixing vegetables, meats, and seasoning in a way Britain is totally oblivious to (well, until recently at least). However the heat itself – well there is a bit of a taste there but the experience lies in the heat.

It’s a fantastic symptom halter. When you’ve a cold, eating a hot and spicy curry sends your sinuses into overkill. Your eyes overflow, your nose runs, and the flame can extinguish an ache in your throat for a good period of time. It unblocks you. It makes you warmer because of the effort of your body to stifle the heat. But this doesn’t relate to times when you feel well.

Curry can be painful, do we enjoy the pain it gives us? From the expressions on our faces the answer must be no. Does ingesting it cause the release of something pleasurable, like chocolate? Is it possibly the fact that the spice leaves you feeling full for longer or simply that it makes the rest of the meal more tasty?

For someone who adores curry I’m ashamed to say I have absolutely no idea why I like it.


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