Big Mistake, Mr. Columbus. Those Aren’t PEPPERS!

Do you read the weekly food flyers that come with your newspaper?  Some people consider it a waste of time; they just go to their favorite store and buy whatever they need, whatever the cost that week. 

I like to read those flyers.  They show me what’s available at bargain prices, and they help me with meal planning, too.  For example, “YXZ” store has a three-day sale beginning Friday: salmon fillets are $5.99/lb., and red bell peppers are 4 for $1.

Mark and I certainly don’t need a whole pound of fish, and one bell pepper should suffice for the side dish to go with the broiled salmon.  This means I can make a dinner entrée for two at under $6!  For starch, there’s steamed rice, which we already have. “Catch of the day” always works with a budget!


Did you know that naming the pepper as such was a mistake by Christopher Columbus?

First, let’s clarify a matter of spatial orientation. From where you’re standing,
north would be above you;
south, below you;
east, to your right;
west, to your left.

OK? Settled.

In the late 1400s, the Portuguese knew a way to India — and its fabulous spices — by sailing south-eastward on the Atlantic Ocean, rounding the southern tip of Africa, sailing north on the Indian Ocean, until landfall in Calicut, India.

SSAgeDiscoveryDaGamaMap.bmp (217702 bytes)


Columbus, working for the Spaniards, proposed a different route to King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castille. He wanted to sail westward on the Atlantic Ocean, saying he could also end up in Asia… the fabulous East Indies, region of the Spice Islands.

In August 1492, he commanded three ships on a westward sailing of the Atlantic Ocean, hitting land in October. He was convinced that he had reached “the Indies” and called the local people “Indians.”

Among the foods they encountered were mahiz (corn), xtomatl (tomato), cacabi (cassava), batata (potato), and chilies (capsicum).

Rewind: in Columbus’ Europe, the prized spice was the piper nigrum (peppercorn), large black grains, which when ground up and added to foods, made them “hot ” to the taste.  This spicy plant product was believed to have originated in India.  Europeans applied the generic word “pepper” to all known spices that were hot and pungent to the taste.

So when he tasted some foods prepared by the friendly people of the Carribean, especially those seasoned with certain piquant chilies, Columbus declared that he had found peppers.


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