Re-posting this 2015 post after the winners of 2021’s Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine tell how they used the chili pepper’s capsaicin to narrow down the molecule that lets us sense heat and pain (or temperature and touch) – a ground-breaking discovery which is going to lead to advances in medicine). See link at the end. And step up your chili eating!
I love hot food so I looked into the whole effect-of-chilis thing a couple years ago and was really intrigued and pleased at what I discovered.
If you could watch cells and nerves on your tongue through a powerful microscope as someone burnt them with a flame you would actually see them get physically damaged as they sent a mad “heat and pain!” signal to your brain. If you watched them as you ate a habanero chili the same urgent message would be sent, but NO HARM would be happening to the cells! No harm whatsoever.
Once you process this info you can really start to relax and enjoy hot food. It’s “capsaicin” that’s responsible for that burn and pain sensation. Marvellous stuff! Capsaicin selectively binds to a protein known as TRPV1 that resides on the membranes of pain and heat-sensing neurons. TRPV1 is a heat-activated calcium channel that usually opens between 37 and 45°C. When capsaicin binds to TRPV1, it causes the channel to open at or below normal human body temperature, which is why capsaicin is linked to the sensation of heat. Glorious heat! So what happens when you add chillis to your grub is your body thinks it is being exposed to heat. Your tolerance for heat in the exposed tissues goes so low that the temperature of your own body is mistaken for a serious burn. Your brain says ouch! and eina! at first, but once you know what’s happening you learn to say Ooh! and Aah! and you get to LURV that sensation and the feeling of well-being that follows.
So: You can go on a long boring run for your endorphin pleasure, or you can sit and enjoy a delicious meal for the same effect!
That’s the brain’s response. Meantime, your body responds to this heat like it would normally by trying to cool you. Capillaries expand in the area of contact and redness and swelling begin so the blood can carry heat away and bring in healing factors to fix the injury (in this case: “injury”). The chemical only works locally on the tissues it directly touches (on nerve endings). This is why your tongue and lips will burn, as they have lots of nerve endings close to the surface. But the pain may also cause general stress sweating as your body is chemically reacting to pain and trying to counteract it. Your body thinks it is in the presence of a dangerous level of heat and responds with the sensation of pain even though there is no danger.
Incidentally, your body’s ability to feel temperature is a separate sense. TPRV1 receptors are an “Ouch! that’s hot” sense not a “Hmm, this is hot or cold” sense. Normally heat only begins to generate pain if it goes over about 37°C and the pain climbs as the heat does!
You get used to (and learn to love) the effect of chillis. Repeated exposure to capsaicin causes the chemicals that communicate pain to be depleted from your nerve endings, making you tougher and less of a ninny. Did I mention: Marvellous stuff!?
Aside: Chillies originally come from South and Central America, and were taken to Europe first and then to India and Asia, where they became an integral part of Asian cuisine.
Have you checked my white horse? Well, white VW kombi – WHICH . . was towed into the garage while on holiday two days before new year. Today I towed it again – to a clutch place. I’ve been driving Trish’s ole man’s 1980 Opel Kadett. He handed me the keys, his vision is shot. Glaucoma and deciding not to use the drops for years as they irritated his eyes and blurred his vision. He was right, xalatan is a bitch. But . .
I await the verdict on the kombi’s clutch – which I hope is better than VW’s R17 290.
I KNEW I shoulda fitted a Stromberg.
Peter Brauer wrote:
How thick can ONE man be?
Read what you wrote: ‘Been driving Trish’s ole man’s 1980 Opel Kadett.’
Do you not see the message in that? Let me help you:1980……Opel . .
Give the kombi to the clutchplate and buy a fucking Opel. Of ALL people I thought you would have learned something as a student.
Problem is – no matter how hard I try – I don’t get the 1980 feeling driving it. I just remember Kevin Stanley-Clarke’s firm statement, as he drove us around Doories in his chocolate brown Alfa: “When driving, always watch out for old toppies wearing hats. Give them a wide berth.” My current cap says DAS Pilsener.
Also, clicking in the gearlock, fitting the steering lock, feeling the ceiling fabric fluttering on my bald head as I drive with all windows open – the aircon substitute. Then waiting for the misfiring to end after switching off – it all brings back TOO MANY memories.
PS: New crutch and “dual flywheel” (TF is that?): R9 900.
Steve Reed wrote:
Like I said: Buy a Toyota.
The WORST thing is, you’re right. As my Toyota patients never tire of telling me. With the Durban Toyota plant just down the road I see a fair number of them and their suppliers; and they have NO doubt as to what I should do. Trouble is: The Hi-Ace minibus has a bench seat – I can’t stroll back for a beer or a kip or to feed the kids. That’s a deal-breaker.
I never owned a Toyota in my life, despised them in fact, till arriving here in Australia and had to take the cheapest / most reliable / least offensive on the tweedie handsey (second hand) market.
Try standing on hot used car lots in the Brisbane heat !!! Water boarding is a kinder form of torture.
Eventually when my head and body was about to be fully done in, I gave way and said “OK OK I’ll take it” and by some luck I was standing on the Toyota forecourt at the time.
VERY pleased I was not standing next to a Kia or a Holden Captiva.
As for the clutch, anything that can take six months of the good wife Wendy’s clutch abuse and still be on the road is ok for me. And I am brave enough to say this in front of her – Then duck.
It’s a sad state of affairs that I will take anything that doesn’t give me kak in the line of cars and women nowadays.
Which reminds me: Bob Ilsley was at Addington when I got there in my khaki uniform. He was in legs, I was in eyes. He made woorren legs for the hobbling. He’s turned 81 now, still flies the plane* he made in his garage – a Piper Vagabond – and waltzes around in rude T-shirts. One says, ‘IF ITS GOT TITS OR WHEELS IT WILL GIVE YOU SHIT.‘
I’ve made glasses for him since 1980: Glass PGX execs; 3 cyl power, same axis; SAME heavy, dark Safilo zyl frame (same frame, not same type of frame), same add, same same; Tried changing a number of times to new frame, multi, CR39, flattops, different axis, whatever, and every single time we go back to EXACTLY what he had before.
Last year we tricked him. We made a free pair of CR39 flattops (‘temporary’ we told him) in a better frame (still zyl, but thinner) and made him wear them while we took his old specs and “searched for a frame just like his perfect one”. The search continued while his wife, all his girlfriends and mates told him he looked much better. Now he has stuck to them (except every now and then he walks in with his old ones on and kicks up a huge stink in the front office when its crowded about how “These bloody new frames you gave me are NO GOOD!”). He’s a character. Sharp as a whistle. He flies and signs off home-built planes – experimental aircraft – before they can be licensed.
* or would still be flying his Piper Vagabond tail-dragger if he hadn’t pranged it on take-off in PMB with his wife on board. He is re-building it in his garage now.
Anyway, owning a Toyota probly makes you more boring in the long run: You, for instance, would not have to catch a lift with friend Bruce to fetch your car in Umbilo Road (and the clutch feels kak, thank you).
We made a detour for lunch – a currie at Gounden’s. Gounden’s is at the back end of a panelbeating shop between Umbilo and Sydney roads. You walk thru the workshop to get to it. Lekker bare place, cheap tables with a big bar doing good trade. Many ous there for liquid lunch. We took quarter bunny mutton, made my hyes water. Washed it down with Black Label and coke – one bottle, one can, long sips from one then the other. R80 for the both of us. Service: Of the Hey You variety. Ambience: Faint sounds of panel beating in the background. Gounden opened this “restaurant” to spite his wife when they divorced. Her restaurant is a few shopfronts away, on the street: Govender’s Curry House. We feel in such cases of matrimonial argy bargy, we should support the husband.
~~~oo0oo~~~ My good wife Aitch also should be employed on a test track for concept offroad trucks along with Wendy. A mate from England visited and Aitch drove them around quite a bit while I worked to make money to take them all to Mkhuze. He drives ancient Peugeot heaps and lovingly tends them with kid gloves, keeping them alive long past their date de vente (sell-by date), so this was an eye opener to him. He said a Cockney version of Yussiss! and described how she takes no shit from a gear lever, nor a clutch. She knows first is somewhere up in that far left corner and she shoves the lever there without any how’s-your-father.
Bob is now 82. Last week he came in with his “Recycled Teenager” T-shirt. To proudly collect his – wait for it – Glass PGX Exec Bifocals in Thick Square Plastic Frame. “Much better” he says. His CR39 flattops were coated with a thick layer of some spray. Took lots of cleaning with acetone to get them clear and smooth. He did acknowledge they were clearer than they’d been in months. But the execs were better.
Today he’s back from passing his flying medical. “Told you” he says. “You wouldn’t lissen” he says.
Today he’s off to Kokstand to check if a home-built – built by the local hardware man – is safe to fly another year. He’ll certify it if all’s well.
Next week he’s on his way to Oshkosh in Wisconsin to the world’s biggest home-built aircraft show. Sleeps in a pup tent in the campground to save tom.
Last time he flew a simulator of the Wright Brothers’ first aircraft. Crashed after 3 seconds. Went to the back of the queue and stood in line again to have another go. Flew it for 44 secs that time. Longer than the brothers themselves.
Amazin. Where do you get PGX glass execs from? That stuff is illegal here – we live in a nanny state though. Had a dude on the phone for 20 minutes wanting glass PGX trifocals. Banging on about how he could buy PGX exec TRIfocals on the net if only he could get someone to fit them for him. Had not given up and had been trying for 18 months. PLUS of course being a veteran he needed to have them free. Veterans Assistance (V.A) here only does SV or bifocals, plastic only and a free pair every two years. Clear rules. He has been in battle with the head office of V.A. and after 18 months says he is beginning to make progress. Fantastic. Over here if you whinge long enough, know how to use email, have time, and use the term “human rights” you can have anything. Just shout loud enough. Its all yours. And then the taxes go up.
I wrote: Your veteran sounds like Bob.
On the execs, I got a definite NO WAY from Zeiss, Essilor and Hoya, but of course in Debbin there are lots of little one-man labs with family connections in places that keep Morris Oxfords running for half-centuries after their sell-by dates.
They woke up Hoya who then found a pair covered in dust. The add was +1,75 not +2,00, but I said “What’s the difference?” and we made them up. Bob’s as pleased as punch, like I told you. He loves a good “I told you so”.
Like Horseshoes and Handgrenades, closies DO count. Excellent.
Trader Horn spoke of a fellow down-and-out in the Joburg doss house – a traveller who “made good money but couldn’t stand prosperity”. Whenever he made a commission, he’d go and get foolishly inebriated.
My TomTom has a problem with prosperity. Jess will hoard her pocket money but Tom must spend his with urgency. But how lucky am I that his idea of a splurge is to take his Monday pocket money and walk to the shops and return with a thick steak, fresh herbs and rocket, a brick of butter and coarse salt? He’ll hurry home with his loot, cook up a storm and sit down and eat it happily. He may not finish it and he definitely won’t eat our supper after that, but he’s as happy as larry.
This time it was pasta with a freshly-made herb and tomato sauce.
Tomatoes screened against vervet monkey raids. These powder-blues have been sending in the troops this winter as the drought bit hard. I put food out for them early mornings before they wake on the boundary so they discover it “by chance”.
The hydroponic spinach under shade cloth – makes the most wonderful mfino for my phutu.
Out in the open – Share and share alike, I tell Tobias Gumede. He grins and shakes his head.
Oh Emm Gee, another phase. Now we’re thirteen and we NEED to “get buff“. To bulk up. School starts in a week and five weeks of lying on the couch while I say “Come for a walk” is over. Suddenly, we now need to get fit and bulked up in the next couple days!
It’s 6.55pm and TomTom and his mate Francois who’s staying over NEED money and NEED to walk to Pick n Pay to buy “future life” a fake-promise cereal endorsed by people who will say anything for $$$. OK, OK, off you go, I say. It’s late, but PnP is just 200m up the road.
Pring from his phone: Dad, PnP is closed, can we go to Spar. Spar is 4km away and it’s 7.15pm. I ask: Don’t they close at 7.30? No at 8pm he says We can make it Dad!
I’m not going to stop him. Off you go.
Halfway through my apple crumble n custard and black coffee which I’m eating as part of my alternative Tim Noakes diet – the original one; my other diet is the Tim Noakes ‘Banting-type’ Diet – I have misgivings. His friend with him is an only child and his Mom once specifically worried about him not being able to ride a bicycle out in the big wide world, so maybe she wouldn’t approve of a 4km walk at 7.15 and a 4km walk back in the dark.
So I head off once I’m done to see how far they’ve got and to give them a lift. Just like most other Westville Moms.
Actually, Tom has ridden a lot and walked a lot and swam quite a lot these hols, so I do exaggerate somewhat.
They made it – I found them on their way back already.
It’s the fourth time we have celebrated your birthday without you. And it’s not the same. It was chaos, of course. After two weeks of hum n haw, the kids decided we needed to go to Butcher Boys in town for big steaks. Then they decided on John Dorys nearby for fish n chips. Then Jess decided not to go.
In the end TomTom, Lungelo & I went to the nearby centre. They each had a R99 mixed platter, I had steak and we brought two calamari n chips home to Jess & her friend Tarryn.
When they’d finished the boys walked home and I finished a second glass of wine and paid. Just before I left a lady at a nearby table came over. She knew Tom from aftercare and was all complimentary. I thanked her for helping to get the lil bugger to pass!
Took three 12yr-olds to the movies on Friday night. They asked me to disappear before they got spotted with me – ruin their reps, I would.
So I wander off to my man cave substitute, Exclusive Books and wait, surplus to requirements.
They walk in bright-eyed a few hours later.
The movie? Oh, the MOVIE!? Ja, it was good. They’re bursting to talk, but they’d probably arranged “Don’t say nothing”< and I get non-commital grunts.
It couldn’t last. There were GIRLS! Some not even from their school, and some taller than them! They sat near these chicks and in front of them and spoke to them and they took the sweets the boys offered them! And it was a 16 movie, that’s why they needed me away before they bought tickets. But it’s fine, they let them in no problem.
Oh boy . .
On the way to Ithala we stopped at a Boxer store in Dundee to buy supplies. I deliberately didn’t go to the Woolworths or a shopping centre as the boys had been talking about dodgy places. As I stopped Josh and Tom said “This place is dodge”.
Grabbing a trolley, I sent them off to buy the braai. “Buy charcoal, lighters, matches and meat”, I said. Then I thought “Better write that down”, so I tore my list in half and wrote down those four things for them:
We put all our goods in one trolley. I glanced at the meat they had bought while paying and stifled a grin: We were not going to be short on protein!
I paid, left the shop and loaded all the stuff we had bought into our trusty Ford Ranger bakkie.
“Oh! We forgot the charcoal”, they said.
“And the lighter and matches?” I asked.
Forgot that too.
In their minds they HAD remembered four things:
Meat, Meat, Meat and Meat.
They did the braai both nights and did a great job of it. While they were at it they spotted a Thicktailed Bushbaby (or nagapie) and a Large-spotted Genet in the headlamp light.
We shared a meal in Vwaza Marsh National Park, Malawi. On the way there we delayed stocking up with food, thinking surely the next market will be better, but each town was the same: A big market square with lots of stalls, but only a few occupied, and those only offering a few oranges and sweet potatoes, arranged in neat little pyramids. Eventually we arrive in camp not having bought anything. We resolve to fast and go back to Rumphi for some oranges and sweet potatoes before moving on to Nyika Plateau.
The Vwaza game guard comes over to hear if we want to shower and when we’ll be eating. He will light a fire for us. On hearing we won’t be, he brings his own sadsa/phuthu/maize porridge on a tin plate! We have a vacuum-sealed sausage of salami, so we add that and share the meal. Everybody wins! He heats the shower just right and carries it up the ladder and pours it into the bucket with a tap on it so we have a hot shower. Luxury! I spoilt that woman!
In the Comores we shared a meal We delivered a book on Bruce Lee martial arts to well-known Comoran beach guide “Bruce Lee” in the Comores Big island (a gift from a previous guest who heard we were going there). He invites us for supper at his humble palm-frond thatched home in the nearby village where his wife cooks for us. A number of plates with porridge various veges, and one plate with four tiny fishes – which they put on our plates. We say we must share them, but “No. You are our guests!” they insist.
In Jozini, Zululand we shared a meal
Whenever I visit Tobias he and Thulisiwe treat me to a lovely meal in their home. This time it was curried chicken and phuthu. As always Thulisiwe gave me a bag of her home-grown roasted and salted peanuts to take home.
A long Day Offstretched ahead of me. My schedule looked like this:
“Oh, I booked you for an assessment at the gym at 6am” says my Aitch.
GYM? My shadow never darkens the door of any gym! She knows that! “Calm down, it’s with Tanya the biokineticist and it’s for Vitality points,” Aitch instructs me patiently. “And I told you about it” she reminds me.
Hmph! That rattled me. But, Oh well, thank goodness it’s early, the rest of the day will be just me and chilling.
Aitch is taking the younger to school and doing his class reading, so I suggest we meet for breakfast before her chemo, making my second appointment for the day. My day off is filling up.
At the gym Tanya worked my case with pushups and crunchies and other forms of torture – which seem like nothing compared to when she starts measuring me.
“It’s OK, just put 75kg” I said for weight. “No I must measure” she says, hauling out the scale from under the torture bed. It was unfair, as she didn’t have one of these scales . .
. . so I had to take her word for my weight and her word was “92,8” – said ominously. Oh.
“99cm” I say as she approaches me with a tape measure (knowing that over 100 classifies one as obese in this freaky anal gym-world environment.).
“106” she deadpans. I clearly hear the implied “Jy’s obese, ou bees”.
But she’s very sweet in the end, telling me I’m absolutely perfect and supremely healthy if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m fat and unfit. I squeak into the bottomest of the “acceptable” rating. Up from “fair” six months ago (which is the last time I did any bending or pushing). Aitch will get her bonus Vitality points. Phew!! Tanya gives me a list of stuff I must eat (crunchy and fruity) and stuff I must avoid (succulent and tasty).
I get home and Jess is waiting to be taken to school.
At breakfast with Aitch at Oscar’s on the Berea, I get prrring prrring (actually I got Reelin’ and Rockin’ as Jessie has changed my ringtone). “Why aren’t you at the clinic?” A mad scramble for St Mary’s hospital at Marianhill ensues, gotta stop at home to pull on some long pants – How was I to know? I’m on leave! (OK, if I’d read my sms earlier . . . ) – As I shovel a last mouthful of Oscar’s kipper into my beak, Aitch shoves a list into my hand.
So now my day looks like this:
6.00am Torture and Humiliation
7.10am Jess to school
8.00am Breakfast with Aitch
8.30am Eye Clinic volunteer duty
(arrived 9.20am – could get fired – yeah, right!)
1.30pm Fetch Jess from school
2.30pm Fetch Tom from soccer
3.30pm Take Jessie to swimming
4.30pm Fetch Jess from swimming
5.00pm Take Tom to cub scouts
7pm Fetch Tom from cubs
Jessie asked nicely to skip swimming. I said FINE. Tommy immediately said “Great, so I’m skipping cubs.” No way. It was the AGM and all the cubs were in full uniform. My fella had all his kit on and looked really spiff. So much so that his bare feet almost didn’t seem to matter. Except to Akela.
Bliksem! Tomorrow I’m going to take the day off. By going to work. This ‘Being Like a Mom’ lark is exhausting.
While we’re packing for a camping trip to Mkhuze the vervet monkeys sneak into the kitchen and grab the fresh peanuts. The peanuts grown by Thulisiwe just north of Jozini on the Makathini Flats, which she then roasts over an open fire and salts herself. Tobias brings us some whenever he goes home.
Tom spots them on the roof, spilling the nuts as they chomp them, the spilt ones rolling down the tiles into the gutter. Hey! he shouts and remonstrates and fulminates! Tom and the monkeys, not a good relationship despite all my lectures (because of?).
After a while I tell him Relax m’boy, its OK for the monkeys to have the nuts. We left them in the open, their job is to glean and gather, so that’s that.
But he doesn’t like it, and he doesn’t like them. I think its because he’s a bit scared of them, so I ask him:
TomTom, how big do you think the monkeys are, fella? How much do they weigh?
About 90kg, he guesses. Guess again. First, how much do you weigh?
45kg And the monkeys?
I never really learnt to be circumspect. I tend to blurt. So what would you like to do now your second chemo spell is over, Aitch? We’d gone snorkelling at Mabibi on the Zululand coast after the first. A six hour drive in a 4X4.
Where? The Great Barrier Reef? But that’s in Oz, m’dear! You do? Um, what I meant to ask was: What, reasonably-speaking, would you like to do?
So I scurried off to do my homework. Costs, flight times, travel time to the reefs, what we could afford. With trepidation I showed her two alternatives: The Great Barrier Reef in Oz vs Madagascar, where we would live aboard a yacht, plopping overboard to snorkel whenever we wanted to.
Phew! She chose Madagascar – and LOVED Madagascar. “My BEST holiday ever!” she enthused afterwards.
We shared the boat with a delightful English couple, Dickie and Claire, with their two blonde girls Sonja and Natasha. Easygoing and relaxed, it was a blissful getaway. They were chilled and accommodating, and so were we. The crew, too, were wonderful folk, friendly, capable, and good chefs! Skipper Bert, chef ___ and teenage deckhand ‘Mowgli,’ who fascinated our Jessie.
It was Aitch, so homework was still done, naps were still taken, routines were kept as far as possible:
One day sunny and windless outdoor fun, including wading in the Mooi River;
The next a howling gale and chilly rain coming in at an angle; Forced to snuggle in the chalets, kids in one chalet watching DVD’s and eating biltong, potato crisps and sweets; Adults in the other drinking red wine, eating red meat and dark chocolate;
Solved the world’s problems, and would patent those thoughts if I could remember them.
Aitch had lots of stuff. She had two huge clear glass vases containing coffee beans and golden spirally sticks with bronze woven balls stuck into them, sticking up about a metre tall in all. I dunno. It’s a mystery. Inferior decorating, I guess.
I hadn’t looked at them for ages, and when I saw Tom up a ladder in the study I vaguely thought ‘what the . . ‘ but I knew I’d find out sooner or later.
Sooner. He had the beans between two layers of the tablecloth and was hammering them with a silver ladle, a wooden rolling pin and a cast-iron pot.
Rather crude? I questioned him.
Jamie Oliver does it like this, Dad. Watch, it’ll be the best coffee you’ve ever had!
I’m looking forward to tasting it, fella (grabbing the camera to record another instalment of living with a short chef).
Postscript: Dad, it’s not so good, he says a few days later. The beans are stale.
True, fella, they’ve been out in the open air for about five years, and you really need fresh beans, sealed airtight. We’ll get some and you can do your Jamie thing with them, OK?
Aitch never held my culinary skills in high regard. Her favourite meal to mock was my chicken-onion-n-potato-in-a-pot special which she described as pale and tasteless. It wasn’t. It just looked bland. With a touch of salt and black pepper and enough red wine taken internally it was fine.
She was right about my braaiing skills, though. Luckily Tom’s genes skipped back about seven generations to when burning dead animals on a naked flame was considered an advance in civilisation, not like I believe it to be: a pointless exercise now that Eskom has been invented. So he is now my braaiing stunt double.
To show that I’m an early adopter and no Luddite, I’ll have everyone know that when Aitch met me back in ’85 there was already an AEG microwave ensconced in my bachelor flat, faithfully re-heating coffee, poaching eggs and heating up the half hamburgers I would find on my chest after a good night out.
same microwave gave up the ghost this week. That’s correct. My AEG
microwave, bought on 26 March 1984 fizzled on me on the 26th of March
2014. How’s that for hi-fidelity?
And just to show I really will avoid playing the primitive pyromaniac if I can help it, here’s a picture of me pulling my shirt to hide that same microwave behind me at Kosi Bay, Zululand ca 2002. I snuck it into the kombi knowing their campsites had Eskom power and knowing that heating up Tommy’s bottles was a fiddle without it. So I took gas and I took firewood and I took Lion matches, but I used AEG electric microwave technology powered-by-Eskom’s coal burning to feed TomTom.
Update: Now I’m pissed off it packed up after only 30 years:
In 1963 John F Kennedy was president of the US, the Beatles had released their first album, and Winifred Hughes of Crewe, then a mere 39yrs old, paid £79 for an ultra-modern Belling Classic electric oven. It turned out to be an amazing bargain. Winifred, now 92, has used it almost every day since, and she says, “it never let me down”. Sadly, just last week, the thermostat finally gave up, and Winifred says she is “heartbroken” her beloved Belling is no more.
“…which she described as pale and tasteless. It wasn’t. It just looked bland. With enough red wine taken internally it was fine.”
Wasn’t she talking about you??
Terry Brauer wrote:
You truly are the nuttiest oke I know. For a greenie this is like true confessions. Nuking your food.