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Barbecue University™

So Good It Hurts

Did you know every day, every week, and every month of the year honors a particular food or drink? Thanks to a blend of presidential proclamations and industry and trade association lobbying, the calendar for 2014 is entirely committed. (It’s reassuring to know that Congress does something…)

You say you missed “National Bloody Mary Day” on January 1? No problem. You can catch one of several days this month honoring alcoholic beverages, including Hot Buttered Rum Day (January 17) and Irish Coffee Day (January 25).

But there’s one day in January our Barbecue! Bible community can really sink its teeth into: “International Hot and Spicy Food Day” on Thursday, January 16.

Fiery foods not only taste awesome in all their gullet-scorching glory, it turns out they’re good for us. The latest medical research has shown hot and spicy foods:

  • Improve digestion
  • Stimulate metabolism and weight loss
  • Reduce the risks of strokes and heart attacks
  • Fight cancer

And as any chile head knows, if you’ve contracted a winter cold, capsaicin, the active ingredient in chile peppers, will unclog your nasal passages faster than any over-the-counter medication. It also helps soothe sore muscles and reduce inflammation—it’s the active ingredient in topical creams like Zostrix. Feeling blue? Capsaicin, scientists say, stimulates the production of serotonin, that natural high compound that produces feelings of happiness and wellbeing. So you could think of the chile pepper as nature’s Prozac, and who couldn’t use a shot of that when you find yourself caught in polar vortexes and January’s fifty shades of grey?

Use “International Hot and Spicy Food Day” to drop-kick your menu out of its post-holiday doldrums:

  • Take a virtual trip to Boston Beach, Jamaica, with fiery jerk pork. The scotch bonnet chile-based marinade certainly jolts you out of your winter funk, and an ingenious technique unique on Planet Barbecue—boning the pork and making a series of accordion-like cuts—allows you to cook a whole hog in a few hours (and a pork shoulder in even less time). That’s much appreciated when you’ve cleared that path to your grill or smoker through the snow and grill in sub-freezing temperatures.
  • Want to fire up some steaks (literally)? I prescribe Steaks From Hell—T-bones seared over mesquite and served with a sit-up-and-take-notice salsa fired with grilled vegetables and arbol chiles. The recipe comes from an unassuming steakhouse in Juarez, Mexico, called Mitla. That word, mitla, just happens to be the Nahuatal Indian word for “hell.” But you’ll be in heaven when you dig in.
  • How about seafood? Piri-piri shrimp is one of the national dishes of Mozambique and South Africa—briny crustaceans immolated with fiery piri-piri chili sauce—made with a tiny red chile native to Brazil. You’ll find the recipe in Planet Barbecue.

If hot and spicy food just isn’t your thing, take comfort in the fact that January 16 is also National Fig Newton Day. Who knew?

Do you want to keep that burn going? Learn more about chile peppers or try these fiery recipes:

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