By DELBERT HORROCKS
Sweet pepper addiction
North Americais under attack. No, I’m not talking about some crazies flying into buildings, that’s been done. I’m talking about something more insidious, more personal, an attack on our bank accounts, The kind of threat where an evil third world power gets you addicted to a substance then slowly ratchets up the price until financial ruin stares you in the face. A threat that could potentially drive old guys like me back to work, and if you don’t think that’s a threat to the labour force, ask my long suffering coworkers.
The keen readers among you think you have the answer, but no, I’m not talking about gasoline, what’s fifty cents more a litre, a mere speed bump along the road of supply and demand. Nor am I talking about BMW’s, that’s aVancouveronly phenomenon. I’m speaking about 1200% price increases, where prices can range from one dollar a pound up to twelve; I’m talking about sweet peppers.
First some background. Thirty years ago, the average household didn’t have red and yellow peppers, just highly non-addictive green ones that no one would pay more than 39 cents a pound for. These were used in Greek salads, or if your mom was a gourmet cook, stuffed with hamburger and served in the formal dining room to honour the occasion.
Then one day inMexico, where our peppers are grown, there was a farmer’s strike. Green peppers were left unpicked on the vine and after ten days, what do you know, green turned to yellow and after that to red. One vegetable, three colours. Not since the AMT 3 in1 car models have we seen such a nifty trick.
The picketing Mexicans soon got tired of pitching rocks at passing motorists and started eating the new brightly coloured peppers. “Carumba,” they said. “These are far better than those stupid green peppers those gourmet broads are stuffing up North. Pass me another, willya. Man these things are good, I can’t stop eating them. Those rich amigos up north are really going to like… Ah ha!”
It was at this point the Mexicans realized what they had, a highly addictive substance. A substance once people got hooked on, they would pay great money for. Which kind of explains that fateful day inHawaiiwhere I paid six dollars for one organic yellow pepper, yes folks, $12 a pound.
As with any addiction, it started slowly. I remember that first time. There I was at a friend’s, living a clean, pepper- free lifestyle. Clueless, I watched as he fried up red peppers with garlic and olive oil, and then shredded asiago cheese on top. Then I tried them. It was just like pesto all over again; my life would never be the same. (Clinical note: Basil addiction, though similar to pepper addiction, is considered less damaging to society, especially if you live in an Italian neighbourhood.)
The addiction developed quickly, almost overnight our eating habits changed. Pretty soon you couldn’t have a pasta or salad without peppers. And barbequing changed forever. Where there used to be space on the grill for chicken or steak, now every square inch was monopolized by peppers.
I later found out the man who introduced me to peppers secretly vacations six months every year in anAcapulcomansion, that town being the home of the Mexican pepper cartels, all of whom belong to the dreaded Capsicum family.
The big question about peppers is of course, price fluctuation. How can a red pepper sell for 99 cents a pound one day and $5.99 the next? I went on the Internet to find out. And here’s where things got mysterious. I got the runaround. Oh, there were vague references to the law of supply and demand, but push harder and you get shunted over to a Viagra ad. Push still harder and they park you on a Depends site, the message being very clear, either mind your own business or find yourself in an adult diaper. Gulp!
Meanwhile the Capsicum family plays the law of supply and demand like a Stradivarius. They squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, $2.99, $3.99, $5.99, just to the point we realize we can’t go on living this way. Then they drop the price down to $1.99 and we’re back to our old habits, barbequing large batches of pepper every night. Using brightly coloured peppers as Christmas tree ornaments. Stuff like that.
But this sweet spot seldom lasts, pretty soon prices start to ramp up again as the Capsicums do a little “profit taking.” So now you know why we’ve formed a self-help group. We’re working on a twelve-step program, but so far have only one step. Get your self a green house and grow your own. It worked for marijuana, didn’t it?
With your grilled peppers tonight, I recommend a bottle of Tommasi Valpolicella, $20, well worth ordering.
Delbert is the co-proprietor at Mahle House. Read more at Slightlycorkedandmore.wordpress.com.