Capsicum and Culture: The “Cryptobotany” of Chilli in Popular Culture

There is something of a discipline, though not necessarily a very scientific one, called cryptozoology: the study of mythological, legendary animals, from the giant squids which apparently do exist (even if they are not quite like in the stories) to the likes of the yeti and bigfoot. Cryptobotany hardly exists, but there are some legendary/mythological plants, including chile peppers.

Cryptic Peppers in Pop Culture

Peruvian Death Pepper

garfield_detailA “variety” that originated in a Garfield cartoon depicting a hot pepper eating contest between Garfield and his “can opener.” Of course, somebody has named some kind of chile pepper after that; and one can regularly find people searching a pepper of this name online… There could be some truth to it, after all… and it’s hot enough to make you exhale fire, hotter than even a habanero ;-)

Guatemalan Insanity Pepper

simpsons_detailEven more interesting, more in tune with some chile pepper lore, was the episode of “The Simpsons” featuring that pepper. Homer has been seen spicing up his food with pepper spray (in the episode in which Marge turns into an adrenaline junkie and joins the police). In this episode, “the man with the iron stomach” meets his match, a pepper sending him on a trip, “El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer.”

What makes it particularly interesting is not just the – capsic-culturally interesting – pointer to chili cook-offs.
Moreover, Chief Wiggum explains how that particular pepper were grown only in the deep jungles of Guatemala, by the inmates of a mental asylum… and there are stories in different parts of the world arguing that the mental/emotional state of the pepper grower were directly related to how good, and especially how hot, they would grow.

Chilli = Alien?

While at it… the teen TV series “Roswell” had its alien-human-hybrid-teens flavor strawberries and cream with Tabasco-Sauce… later on, they were shown as being even more into it. Being asked, there was an explanation about them like food extremely sweet, and extremely hot.

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