While you’re all going for cool treats like cucumber sandwiches, watermelon, ice cream, lemonade and iced tea, I’m going for the — curry!?! Yes, curry, as spicy as I can stand. Spicy foods like curry can be just what you need during hot weather. To many, it seems contradictory, but there is a lot of personal experience and some tried and true old wives’ tales behind it.
What makes these foods so spicy? The main culprits are chili peppers. The ingredient in these peppers that cause all the ruckus is capsaicin, an irritating chemical that can be very painful to the eyes and other sensitive tissues but that seems to be handled by the human digestive system (unless you happen to have a gastrointestinal disorder, such as an ulcer) without too much ill effect.
Capsaicin will make you feel warmer at first and then a bit cooler, especially since it promotes perspiration. Eat some curry and then stand in a breeze. It will cool you. Plus, there is a surge of blood to the skin after eating spicy curry that then fades and leaves you feeling a bit cooler.
While you’re getting cool, you will benefit from not only the flavor of such foods, but nutritional benefits. These fire-inducing peppers are chock full of Vitamin C (about 2.5 times as much per ounce as oranges) and Vitamin A, along with iron, protein, and potassium, while being low in calories and virtually fat free.
One of the good things about curries is that over the years they have gotten easier to make, thanks to curry pastes, chutneys, cooking sauces, and other mixes available from brands like Patak’s, Sharwood’s, Shere Khan (their Vindaloo Curry Sauce is a yummy), and Bombay Authentics. I also buy side dishes under the brand Tasty Bite that are quite spicy and do the trick of cooling me even on the hottest days.
If curry seems too much for you, go for a bit of chutney (sort of like a preserve) of the more spicy variety (some are sweet). A good option is Elizabethan Pantry Hot Bengal Chutney, a combo of black treacle, raisins, and apples. Fruity goodness with a spicy kick!
One of the best things to soothe a stinging palate and tongue after indulging in such spicy fare is milk. A great time to have a nice cup of true Indian style masala chai (spiced tea), usually prepared with a lot of milk and sugar.
Of course, you could always go for some ice cream, like so many do as the weather gets hotter and hotter. That will sadly only counteract the cooling effect of the curry. Ice cream makes you feel cool when first eating it, but as your system starts to digest it, you feel warmer.
Give curry a try, assuming your digestive system is healthy, and see if it gives you that cooling effect. Then, enjoy a nice cuppa chai!
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