Spicy Doesn't Work For Everyone

The newest and, literally, hottest trend right now seems to be a move toward everything spicy. Mexican in particular appears to be increasingly popular on restaurant menus and cooking newsletters. Sadly, there is a segment of the population that simply cannot eat anything spicier than mashed potatoes with a dash of black pepper. As much as I’d love to try all these flavors (yes, I’m one of the spice-avoiders), and feel as though I’m truly missing out on something wonderful, I can’t do it. Where the rest of the world has taste receptors for the aftertaste and deep flavors of habanero, poblano and jalapeno peppers, I - and others like me - have pain receptors instead. The tiniest nibble of pepperjack cheese, for instance, causes a reaction of fiery tongue-agony that takes about a half-gallon of milk and five slices of bread to alleviate. Argh! So what to do about all those wonderful-sounding dishes out there that members of the no-spice-for-me group can’t dig into? Well, in addition to simply leaving out the ingredients that cause us to beg for a tongue-ectomy, I’ve started devising recipes in a Spanish kind of vein that won’t hurt at all to eat. Here is one of them:

Judy’s Spanish Rice


2 bags Uncle Ben’s Whole Grain Boil-In Bag Brown Rice (the box contains 4)
Water for cooking rice
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 sweet orange pepper
1 medium-small onion
1 stalk celery
1 large clove garlic
1 Tbs. cumin
2 heaping Tbs. tomato paste
1/3 cup water or broth
Sea salt to taste


  1. Chop pepper, onion, celery and garlic into a fine dice.

  2. Prepare rice as directed on box.

  3. While rice is cooking, put olive oil in a large heated, non-stick skillet; when the oil begins to “shimmer,” add the vegetables and saute until they begin to soften.

  4. Add tomato paste, water or broth, cumin and salt and stir until smooth and well-mixed. Lower heat.

  5. When rice is finished cooking, drain well and stir into vegetable mixture; adjust seasonings according to taste.

  6. Cover and cook on low heat for 5 minutes more; stir well and serve immediately.

NOTE: If the result is too dry for your taste or the consistency too thick, just add about 1/4 cup more of chicken or vegetable broth, stir over low heat, and serve.

Hope you like it!

Food that is merely spicy hot is unappetizing, but some (or a lot) spicy hot can be great if it is properly balanced. Thai food is a good example, it must be a good balance of sweet, salty, sour and hot. Many Thai foods are very hot, which takes some getting used to, but at the same time, are very flavorful.

I have, after years of cooking, concluded that any and all spice was put on the earth for the purpose of making us healthy and adding just a little bit of enhancement to the already amazing natural flavors of the treasures that grow here. So I agree that too much is just kind of silly - may as well have a dish of whatever spice you’re using otherwise!

As far as Thai food goes, I rather envy those who can eat it, since I’ve discovered that most Asian dishes utilize spice and herbs in a tidy blend with whatever food the dish is named for. That being said, however, just watching friends devour szechuan chicken and the like makes my eyes water, my nose run, and my tongue start searching furtively for the exit. I’ve learned, too, after a horrifying experience with kim chee, to always be suspect if the main course is accompanied by a massive bowl of bean sprouts!:wink: