Chili peppers are known, used, treasured, and sometimes feared worldwide. They are grown in astonishing variety even though they are used most often to flavor food. Yet the first chile peppers evolved and were used in what Europeans call the New World (Central and South America). That origin is a surprise to people from places where chilis are an integral part of cuisine, like India or China. How do we know chilis came from the New World? How did they get to Europe, Africa, India, China? Cuisines are often thought of as conservative (this was the age long before the telephone!) so how did chilis become an integral part of so many cuisines -- from Hungarian paprika in Europe to Szechuan fried chilis in China to scotch bonnet peppers in Jamaica? We'll explore these subjects in readings and student presentations, do hands-on explorations of spices, chilis, and chili-based products, and in some sessions make foods (such as harissa, roasted peppers, chili-crisp-flavored tofu salad) from cuisines that use chilis in diverse ways.
Meet the Instructor: Shripad Tuljapurkar
"I research and teach evolution, ecology and demography in the Biology department. I have worked on policy (for the Social Security administration), aging across the world (for the International Union for the Scientific Study of Populations), and even in business (started and ran a company for 5 years). I'm active in many areas of research (mainly the dynamics, evolution, ecology and history of many things -- plants and mammals, insects, mortality and health, sex bias against women, prehistoric agriculture). I love history, travel, food, and cooking with spices and heat in many cuisines. In travels and cooking and eating, I've seen many forms of chilis in use around the United States, Central and South America, Europe, India, China and other parts of the world -- and in the local area. Besides food and cooking, I enjoy hikes, flyfishing, birding and the outdoors."