As I waited on my very strong (about 1 1/2 – 2 times as strong as most people i know like it) freshly ground whole bean French (dark) roasted coffee to brew, I decided I needed a nibble. I normally peal and slice up broccoli stems and eat the little slices for snacks, usually along with a piece of mozzarella string cheese. Yesterday, I packed my lunch bag as I had a rare Saturday appointment and didn’t want to get caught out of the house hungry and with a low carb snack. It turned out the appointment cancelled.
Last night I made baked chicken, which we eat 3-4 times per week, to make it more interesting to me, I take part of the chicken fat that has cooked out and put it in a pan with some chopped celery, broccoli, mushrooms and about a ½ of a Scottish bonnet pepper, let it simmer for a few minutes, add curry powder, onion powder and fresh ground black pepper, then thicken with heavy whipping cream.
For a long time, I was the only one eating my “special sauce” with the chicken. Then one day I was bragging on it when Suzanne said it all sounded good except for the hot pepper, so I started making it sans pepper, and we both enjoyed it. I missed the pepper, so I took to shaking powdered cayenne pepper all over my chicken.
That replaced the heat, but not all of the flavor. I started chopping the pepper and adding it to a little of the remaining chicken drippings in a small pan and cooking it for a minute or two. I pour this over my chicken prior to the cream curry sauce and it tastes as wonderful as the old sauce, maybe better.
So this morning, while I am waiting on my coffee, I get the leftover broccoli stems and the leftover sauce I had stored in the fridge and mixed them in a small container and started to fork them out. After the first bite, I was missing my pepper. I was in no mood, on a Sunday morning, to chop and cook up a tiny bit of pepper to go in my less than a ½ cup broccoli and sauce concoction, so I shook some cayenne into the mix.
You may wonder why I am telling you this. Well, again, as with the bygone suppers, the heat was there but not the taste. One other little detail you might not be aware of:
The best coffee has less caffeine than the low grade stuff! There is only one coffee plant in the world, but it has two slightly different varieties: Arabica and Robusta
Robusta is robust in that it produces twice as many “beans” per plant and can be grown in lowland fields and harvested with machines and it has a lot of caffeine. Arabica needs high elevations, say Denver and above to be really productive, it needs to be hand picked, remember Juan Valdez? Arabica has almost exactly half the caffeine content as Robusta.
(ironically, Folgers, the brand Mrs. Olsen and Juan brought us may or may not have been mountain grown, but it was more Robusta than Arabica back then, and probably still is)
By the way, did you know caffeine is made by the plants as a TOXIC defense against bugs? I haven’t looked it up, but I would be surprised to find that the heat of peppers serve the same purpose. Think about it, why are we addicted to so many poisonous substances? And yet docs are finding that a certain amount of alcohol, pepper and caffience seem to actually be healthy and helpful, though I haven’t heard of any research on the benefits of nicotine, though, it too, is a natural bug repellent!
What got me thinking was that, even though I am equal parts snob and barbarian:
I like a nice wine and pretty good coffee (a ten dollar chianti and a very recently roasted 8 oclock whole bean) I am not the 50.00 bottle of white wine nor do I need to roast my own beans to a light roast and drink it at room temperature…., yet I wanted not just the kick of the pepper nor the caffeine of the coffee, if so, I would have popped in the cheapest freeze dried chunk of coffee and been happy with more cayenne powder. I know I am not alone in this, as I know smokers want their brand, and drinkers pay lots of money for a really good booze, yet crown royal has no more alcohol than the store brand, ditto for the smokes, and as I pointed out, my beloved coffee has even less caffeine than the cheapest bag on the shelf, even when I make so strong, as I have heard ti said, the spoon stands up in it.
Does a junkie care what kind of heroin he shoots up? That I don’t know, thankfully, but one has to wonder, to hear us all talk our favorite addictions, it’s the caffine, the nicotine, the alcohol or whatever, but what is it that makes us go for more expensive less effective delivery system, of even a good pepper buzz?