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If you like spicy dishes, does that mean you can't appreciate more subtle dishes?

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
If someone likes spicy food, does it mean they can't taste non-spicy food? And does it mean that they are used to inferior ingredients and cover these ingredients up with spices?

I say no, but I'd like to know what others think.
post #2 of 27
Love spicy, love subtle. I feel I taste both well. Spicy can mean two different things, of course. One is hot, and the other is "a lot of spice," which in turn is sometimes synoymous with complex.

It's axiomatic that either can be overdone; but in my case you'd have to go pretty far on the hot or lot. Yeti's too, I expect. But too complex? It offends my inner good cook as it not only masks the the taste of the underlying principle ingredients but muddles it as well. Unforgivable.

Subtle seasoning is nice. But it is certainly not only possible to under-season food as well. Not only possible, but frequently done at home. On the other hand, restaurants often oversalt.

I like bright, vibrant flavors as much as I like sensitivity and restraint; and vice versa. Turner Turner, Norham Castle, Sunrise, and Jackson Pollock http://www.annrea.com/blog/wp-conten...n-pollock2.jpg. And why not?

BDL

PS. Don't eat the paintings, darlings
post #3 of 27
I think you can appreciate both. I love nothing better than an honest to goodness 5 alarm Szechuan. But I also love the subtle flavors of say, a good Coq Au Vin.
"J'aime cuisiner avec du vin, j'ai parfois même mettre dans les aliments je suis cuisson. ""Mi piace cucinare con il vino, talvolta ho persino messa nel cibo sto cottura. ""I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I'm cooking." - Julia Child 
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"J'aime cuisiner avec du vin, j'ai parfois même mettre dans les aliments je suis cuisson. ""Mi piace cucinare con il vino, talvolta ho persino messa nel cibo sto cottura. ""I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I'm cooking." - Julia Child 
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post #4 of 27
Some of it will depend on if you're a super taster or not on your ability to percieve flavors.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #5 of 27
Dunno but this guy probably can't appreciate anything for a few weeks. :)

YouTube - Mike vs. Food: My dumb *** eating Naga Jolokia, the worlds hottest pepper
post #6 of 27
The second sentence was true hundreds of years ago, when spices were used to cover up the off-flavors of food well on its way to rotting. If you look at recipes from medieval and Renaissance times, you'll see lots of spices where you might not expect them. I'm looking in Fabulous Feasts: Medieval Cookery and Ceremony by Madeleine Pelner Cosman at a recipe for "Saumon Rosted" (Roast Salmon in Onion Wine Sauce) that calls for 6 salmon steaks, 1 1/2 cups red wine, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (!), 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 4 minced small onions, and 1 tablespoon vinegar. Nowadays, that's a lot of flavorings for that amount of fish.

Still on that second point: when I work on books of "copycat" recipes -- recipes meant to replicate favorite chain-restaurant dishes -- I notice that the recipes call for what seems to me to be an inordinate amount of sweeteners and salt. Not necessarily a lot of herbs and spices, and not always a lot of hot stuff, not even when it's supposed to be a "hot spicy" dish. Since I suspect the restaurants being copied don't use the finest ingredients, then I'd argue that sugar and salt are used more than spices to mask lack of quality.

But to your first point: throwing it back to you, what do you mean by "spicy food"? Hot, like from chiles or lots of black pepper? Or made with a lot of spices like cinnamon or cumin or nutmeg, and what about herbs? If it's hot spicy from chiles, it might not be a person's choice -- they could be addicted to the endorphin high that they get from eating the chiles. Just like chocolate, chiles make the body release natural "feel-good" chemicals. Sounds odd, given the pain they can also cause, but true. :lol:
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #7 of 27
Yeah, at 1,041,427 Scoville Units, that's going to leave a mark. I wonder if he enjoyed it as much when it made its exit. :D
"J'aime cuisiner avec du vin, j'ai parfois même mettre dans les aliments je suis cuisson. ""Mi piace cucinare con il vino, talvolta ho persino messa nel cibo sto cottura. ""I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I'm cooking." - Julia Child 
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"J'aime cuisiner avec du vin, j'ai parfois même mettre dans les aliments je suis cuisson. ""Mi piace cucinare con il vino, talvolta ho persino messa nel cibo sto cottura. ""I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I'm cooking." - Julia Child 
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post #8 of 27
My eyes teared watching him.....

I believe it boils down to how the dish is suppose to be made. Nothing wrong with hot if it is meant to be hot, and tasty (and edible).

Subtle flavors are wonderful as well.

To change a dish when it is meant to be eaten as "is" ....well then you are no longer enjoying the joy of how is meant to be eaten.

But then again....not everyone has the same palate.

mes deux mots...

Petals
Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(168 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)
 
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Petals
Réalisé avec un soupçon d'amour.

Served Up
(168 photos)
Wine and Cheese
(62 photos)
 
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post #9 of 27
The second sentence was true hundreds of years ago, when spices were used to cover up the off-flavors of food well on its way to rotting. If you look at recipes from medieval and Renaissance times, you'll see lots of spices where you might not expect them

This is the second or third time I've seen a comment like this in as many days. But the fact is, it is much overstated.

First off, until, roughly, the second half of the 19th century (and in some places even later than that), the preferred food---particularly meat---a little on the high side. Actually, a lot on the high side, by our standards. They liked their meats gamey, and often hung them until that happened.

So, a lot of the food we would consider spoiled, got there by intent in those days, not just because of a lack of refrigeration.

More than covering up the taste of spoiled food, spices , were a sign of affluence. Spices were incredibly expensive. So much so that the lady of the manor kept them under lock and key, and doled them out to the cooks. To use a lot of them, particularly when entertaining, was a sign of how high in esteem you held your guests.

They also tended to use aromatics more freely. We tend to think of things like nutmeg, and cloves, and cinnamon as associated with sweets and baked goods. But in the 16-18 centuries they were just as likley to be used, heavy handedly, with savory dishes.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #10 of 27
KYH: good points, all. I stand corrected.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #11 of 27
No big deal, Suzanne. It's a common mistake, often repeated in cookbooks about period food.

The one problem we have with many popular food history cookbooks is that the author's tend to project backwards. That is, they take current standards and apply them to researched recipes.

If nothing else, the one thing I learned as a living historian is that if you want to understand the why of things you must first understand the worldview of the culture. If not, it's just too easy to make common presumptions, such as the "spices to hide spoiled food" one.

Another classic case is Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery. This is often presented as the cookery manuscript that Martha worked from. Many "authorities" on 18th century cooking have said so. But that's because they've looked at, and maybe updated the recipes, without having the broad view of food history. By the late 1700s, it's recipes were already well out of date. In actuality, Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery was a Custis-Lee family heirloom, dating back to about 1645.

I'm gonna shut up now, cuz I'm not really looking to hi-jack Yeti's thread.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #12 of 27
Yeti, Can i assume that you mean chilli's, curries's etc?

IMO people who really enjoy them, do so over a period of time. Their senses become accustomed to the heat and tastes, and over time, become de-sensitised and need moreand more of the same to get the same "kick" out of a spicy meal.I speak frommy own experience and that of my friends.

My Indian friend Suman tells me they start their litttle ones on stronger and stronger dishes as they get older to accustom them gradually.
I'm also aware that in this culture, the spices are not only for preservation of meat and produce, but to keep the body healthy. They all have a purpose. Either for digestion, joint pain or sinus problems. fever. etc. etc. I happen to think it's a coincidence, or maybe just happenchance, that some of us also adore the Chef's delights that entice us again and again

As for dulling our palate, I love a full on Madras, but I can also melt into a whole baked seabass with nothing on it but s&p
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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post #13 of 27
Whilst I love 'Indian' food (mostly Bangladeshi in the UK) I also adore fine French foods.

Different tastes, but appreciate both.
post #14 of 27
A "madras" is all well and good, luv. But how's the menage with phaal and tindaloo going?

BDL
post #15 of 27
Thread Starter 
I didn't specify what types of spices, because I'm interested in what people have to say about different kinds. I appreciate all the responses.

Maybe people who have always had meat as a highly spiced curry (for example), since they were born, would need to get accustomed to having it any other way. Maybe that goes vice-versa too. I remember eating raw fish for the first time. It was an "acquired" taste for me, but it didn't take long for me to acquire it.

"I love a full on Madras, but I can also melt into a whole baked seabass with nothing on it but s&p "
I'm totally with you. Maybe it's just because we're used to both.

That guy eating the whole naga jolokia is crazy! :lol:
post #16 of 27
Never tried it guv'nr 'cos I value taste over heat. As for a tindaloo read vindaloo I've heard that was simply retribution against the beer swilled brits that took the pi** out of the poor Indian waiters. They gave them such a hard time, that the chefs invented a dish to make them suffer the day after ~~ Ghandi's revenge

I actually watched the whole video. ...Felt like a sadist... What was I waiting for?... His head to explode!! Wouldn't like to be around him the next day
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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post #17 of 27
I think it would be silly to think that a person who enjoys spicy foods cannot properly enjoy something that may be more subtle. I also think it's just as silly to think that a person who likes spicy foods is covering the food with spices in order to compensate for less than quality ingredients.

Well, the second one is not necessarily true, but I'm sure it can be true sometimes. I believe it's all about balance. Spicy is perfectly fine if it's within balance. Same with sweetness, acidic, subtle flavors anything...they always need to be in balance.

dan
post #18 of 27
This is a rather complex question. On one hand, many people, especially Americans, use "spicy" and "hot" as synonyms. And, of course, that isn't the case. There are many bold, in-your-face, flavors that are not hot.

I believe if we leave heat out of the equation, for arguments sake, then people who enjoy spicy foods have little trouble with less bold flavors.

Within the context of hot, however, there are different orientations. Some people like hot, in various levels, as one of the flavor components of a total dish. Others like heat for it's own sake.

I would say that it's the latter group who have trouble with more subtle flavors. Case in point: When I worked for an Indian-owned motel, the owner's brother was in to heat. No matter what chilies you used, nor in how great a quantity, it was never hot enough for him. The owner liked spicy food, to be sure (he was Indian, after all). But even he couldn't understand his brother's choice in food. Meanwhile, unless it was blow-the-roof-of-your-mouth off, the brother couldn't taste the food.

One year I grew a chili rated at 700,000 SHUs (for those who don't know, that's about twice the heat of a typical habanero). He thought a dish made with them was bland

I've had similar experiences with other folks. For chiliheads it's all about the heat and endorphen rush. And for many of them, it's like the old joke: their tastebuds were shot off in the war.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #19 of 27
Thread Starter 
Some dishes I like with a lot more chile heat than the average Oregonian. There's a limit, though--I don't enjoy pain. My taste buds are used to a lot of capsaicin, but too much isn't pleasant.

Other types of heat, like black pepper and hot mustard, are as hot to me as to anyone else.
post #20 of 27
My take is personal intuition, not food science, but -

My sense is that when people who aren't acclimated to heat (& I primarily mean chili heat here) eat something with too much capsaicin for them, that's all she wrote. That's all they can taste - actually feel more than taste. They then project that on to people who are acclimated to chili heat & assume that that's all they can taste, too.

Being a bit of a fire-eater, I feel like I get the chili heat AND whatever else is going on in the dish.

This is a pretty dubious argument, though, since I think you can definitely go overboard on the chili & then it will take over completely. But then what's to prevent the true chilihead from using the same argument? "Yeah, I taste these lakhs & lakhs of Scoville Units AND everything else in the dish..."
The genesis of all the world's great cuisines can be summed up in a four word English phrase: Don't throw that away.
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The genesis of all the world's great cuisines can be summed up in a four word English phrase: Don't throw that away.
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post #21 of 27
Holy smokes!! 700k SHU's and he thought it was bland?? :eek: He must suck on pepper spray like it's a lollypop.
"J'aime cuisiner avec du vin, j'ai parfois même mettre dans les aliments je suis cuisson. ""Mi piace cucinare con il vino, talvolta ho persino messa nel cibo sto cottura. ""I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I'm cooking." - Julia Child 
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"J'aime cuisiner avec du vin, j'ai parfois même mettre dans les aliments je suis cuisson. ""Mi piace cucinare con il vino, talvolta ho persino messa nel cibo sto cottura. ""I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I'm cooking." - Julia Child 
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post #22 of 27
He must suck on pepper spray like it's a lollypop.

That's kind of the point.

He shared some of his chicken tandori with me one night. I'm no stranger to hot chilies, but, trust me, there was nothing there but heat. All the chicken did was serve as a platform for the capsaicin. One bite was more than enough for me, thank you very much.

What I'm saying here is that there is no way he could taste food that was less atomic in nature.

Most chilies have an underlying flavor. For instance, the C. chinense (i.e., habeneros, Scotch bonnet, rocotillo, etc.) have a smoky, tropical fruit flavor. C. baccatum (Aji flor, aji Colorado, aji Amerillo, etc.) have a generally citrusy undertone. C. annuum--the most common species--are all over the lot, flavorwise.

When I cook with chilies, it's those underlying flavors I'm looking for, rather than the heat per se. That's why I'm not big on jalapenos. Take away the heat and all you have left is a sort of green, grassy taste. I'd rather use Serranos, which have flavor beyond the heat.

One problem we have is that there's no standard lexicon to describe chili flavors. Unlike, say, the wine folks, who have a fully developed language. Can anyone, for instance, really describe the flavor difference between a ripe bell pepper and a green one? Now try extrapolating that out to the world of hot chilies.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #23 of 27
I like a balance of heat and flavor. Heat for the sake of heat with no flavor isn't very good eats.
"J'aime cuisiner avec du vin, j'ai parfois même mettre dans les aliments je suis cuisson. ""Mi piace cucinare con il vino, talvolta ho persino messa nel cibo sto cottura. ""I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I'm cooking." - Julia Child 
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"J'aime cuisiner avec du vin, j'ai parfois même mettre dans les aliments je suis cuisson. ""Mi piace cucinare con il vino, talvolta ho persino messa nel cibo sto cottura. ""I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I'm cooking." - Julia Child 
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post #24 of 27
I like a balance of heat and flavor. Heat for the sake of heat with no flavor isn't very good eats.

That, I believe, goes to the very heart of the matter.

People who seek that balance should have no problems discerning the flavors in more subtle dishes. But those who are looking for the heat for its own sake are less likely to do so.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #25 of 27
Yes, I suppose if you wage thermonuclear war against your taste buds too many times, they just turn into radioactive slag. :lol:
"J'aime cuisiner avec du vin, j'ai parfois même mettre dans les aliments je suis cuisson. ""Mi piace cucinare con il vino, talvolta ho persino messa nel cibo sto cottura. ""I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I'm cooking." - Julia Child 
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"J'aime cuisiner avec du vin, j'ai parfois même mettre dans les aliments je suis cuisson. ""Mi piace cucinare con il vino, talvolta ho persino messa nel cibo sto cottura. ""I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I'm cooking." - Julia Child 
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post #26 of 27
I think it's possible to burn your palate within a meal. For example you would not serve a super spicy first course if the course following it was a mediterranean style fish course would you?

I'm not a chili chaser. I don't crave much heat in my food, I like a little spice and twitch but I'm not a thrill seeker. In my own personal experience if I eat something too spicy I can taste nothing through the next day. It's not an experience I repeat often.

Same sort of logic can be made about salt.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #27 of 27
My homemade chili powder is a blend of 8 chili's with ancho making up 90% of the mix. From there I add varying amounts of the hotter chilies to keep it balanced flavor wise. It is hot as in make you break a sweat but not do hot it kills the taste-buds. I have a friend who eats raw habs and I think he has no taste buds left.
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