(Roughly) Daily

“Hot, Hot, Hot”*…

Chili peppers thrive in hot and dry conditions. But, as Katherine J. Wu explains, even they have their limits…

For more than a year, life for many sriracha lovers has been an excruciating lesson in bland. Shortages of red jalapeños—the key ingredient in the famous hot sauce—have gotten bleak, in particular for the ultra-popular version of the condiment made by Huy Fong Foods. Grocery stores have enforced buying limits on customers. Bottles on eBay, Craigslist, and Amazon are selling for eye-watering prices—as much as $50 or more. A few Americans have grown so desperate for their flavor fix that they’ve started pilfering the sauce from local restaurants.

A big part of the shortage can be blamed on Huy Fong’s fragile supply chain. The red jalapeños that give the sauce its citrusy-sweet heat are finicky about temperatures and are usually laboriously picked by hand. A huge portion of the peppers are also grown in particularly dry parts of northern Mexico, where many fields are irrigated with water from the Colorado River—itself a strained and highly contested resource. But all of that was just a teeing up, experts told me, for a final climatic blow: the punishing drought that has gripped Mexico in recent years, draining reservoirs so low that even water destined for agriculture has largely been cordoned away.

The sriracha shortage is hardly the worst crop crisis that’s being fueled by climate change. For years, Michigan cherries have been suffocating in too-high temperatures, while Florida citrus have been obliterated by hurricanes; India’s wheat crops have roasted, while rice around the world has been double-teamed by floods and heat waves. But to now see peppers in peril is its own special burn. Bred in some of the world’s warmest regions, chilis have long been a poster child of heat tolerance. They, more than so many other plants, were supposed to be okay. Now, though, as temperatures get more scorching and droughts continue to parch the planet, “I think we are going to see this more often,” Guillermo Murray-Tortarolo, a climate scientist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told me. Sriracha’s troubles may turn out to be a bellwether for even more flavorless times to come…

The Sriracha Shortage Is a Very Bad Sign” (or here), from @KatherineJWu in @TheAtlantic.

* Buster Poindexter (David Johansen)


As we savor the sauce, we might note that today is National Fajita Day.

… The term fajita means “little band” or “little belt”. The meat was probably labeled this way by a butcher who was selling skirt steak and, because this cut is typically rather tough, it was precut into small strips. But the way this little cut of meat made its way into the heart of Tex-Mex cuisine culture has an interesting background story.

Probably created around the late 1930s, fajitas were introduced by vaqueros and Mexican workers on ranches in the Texas Rio Grande Valley. These workers were often paid their wages in meat, sometimes the less wanted parts of the animal. So these workers learned that if they marinated the meat in certain juices, it would become more tender and flavorful, and could easily be eaten on tortillas.

Probably due to convenience, the popularity of fajitas increased in the 1940s. It developed into a sort of backyard, easy to eat, on the go dish that was passed down from one generation to the next.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that fajitas began to make their way into restaurants. One of the first may have been in 1969 when a meat market manager at a grocery store set up a fajita stand at a summer festival. Fajitas gained even more traction in the 1970s and the recipe changed a bit, using finer cuts of meat. With the launching of On the Border, Chili’s and other chain restaurants in the US that boasted Tex-Mex cuisine, the idea of the sizzling fajita served on a grill platter right at the table became an attractive – and delicious – experience…

National Fajita Day


Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 18, 2023 at 1:00 am

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