This morning I heard an NPR story that piqued both my interest and my palate (not to mention my desire for tacos for lunch): the U.S. is getting spicier every year. According to this piece by Andrea Hsu, the consumption of spices in the United States has grown "almost three times as fast as the population over the past several decades." Or to put in another way: compared to the 1970s, Americans now consume 600 percent more chili pepper, 300 percent more cumin, and 1,600 percent more ginger.
This confirms something brown people have known for a while: we're creeping up on you, America, and making your food taste better.
An influx of immigrants--from Mexico, Southeast Asia, and India, in particular--is the main reason things have gotten spicier. You don't have to look far to see the effects: more ethnic restaurants and ethnic groceries, which carry the chili pepper varieties, wasabi, berbere, and cardamom their customers are looking for.
Chipotle pepper (smoked jalapeno) is a great example of how spice has infiltrated the American diet. These days, it seems you can't escape it: Kraft makes a chipotle mayo, McDonald's offers a Chipotle BBQ Bacon burger, and there's even a whole fast food chain named after it. Since introducing chipotle to their line five years ago, McCormick's, the world's largest spice and seasoning company based in Maryland, reports a 70 percent increase in sales.
Meanwhile, says McCormick's employee Celine Endler, "Before people would not even know -- how do you say chipotle?"