Consumers' passion for hot and peppery foods has created a virtual industry in the Western United States.
First there was the debut of Albuquerque-based Whole Chile Pepper magazine, devoted entirely to spicy foods.
Now comes word of a mail order catalogue that offers nothing but food's incendiary side. Called "Mo Hotta Mo Betta--Hot & Spicy Gourmet Extraordinaries," the recent edition of this 18-page journal is filled with condiments likely to bring a tear to the eye.
"This catalogue is for you if you're the kind of person who enjoys food with a bit of a burn," write publishers Tim & Wendy Eidson, in an introductory message.
"Mo Hotta Mo Betta," offers an important service for those who may like their foods sizzling, but not on fire: it rates each product on a scale from mild to hot.
However, the system is provided with an important warning. "We are basing our judgment on the assumption that the taster enjoys fairly spicy food," the Eidsons caution.
The selection ranges from pickled products to sensational sweets. Some of the items being offered include El Yucateco Hot Sauce ($2.50 for five ounces), "this sauce from the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico is an absolute scorcher;" Pocket-Size Tabasco Sauce, an eighth-ounce bottle to be kept in purse or pocket so "you'll never be without an emergency supply;" and Extra Hot Horseradish ($2 for four ounces) a product that is so hot "you'll think you've died and gone to heaven."
"Mo Hotta Mo Betta," can be ordered from P.O. Box 4136, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93403. Phone orders are also taken at (805) 544-3220.
Geography of Suds--Another peculiarly Western tradition, the brewpub, also seems to be coming of age. Once the mere opening of a microbrewery was big local news. The neighborhood availability of lager, ale or stout fermented and sold on premise was exciting to the beer-starved.
But the industry has come a long way in the past few years. And nothing demonstrates that development better than a new map called, "Microbreweries & Brewpubs of the West: A Road Map to Good Beer."
The poster-sized guide lists 80 different brew pubs in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California. The lion's share of these operations, or 52, is in California.
The map, in addition to providing locations and phone numbers, also lists the type and brands of beer produced at each site. A discussion of the brewing process and a description of the various beer styles is also provided.
The map is a publication of American Brewer magazine, a journal that chronicles activities in both the commercial and home brewing fields.
The guide can be ordered by sending $3 to American Brewer Map, P.O. Box 510, Hayward, Calif. 94145. Also available from the same address is American Brewer, a quarterly publication. A year's subscription is $17.50.
A Spudding Controversy--At this time of year, when yams and sweet potatoes are at their popularity peak, there is usually some confusion about the differences between the two tubers. Well, UC Davis was concerned enough about the situation to send out a detailed history of how the spuds' identity became so intertwined.
Sorting out each vegetable's history takes some doing, however.
The sweet potato, with yellow or orange flesh, is native to the tropical Americas and some South Pacific islands, according to the UC Davis advisory. The vegetable can range in size from a typical Russet to about five pounds.
The yam, with a more moist flesh, is indigenous to West Africa where the edible root is known as nyami. Purportedly, the yam can grow to as large as 40 pounds.
The two became intertwined in the early 1900s when Louisiana growers began calling their sweet potatoes yams as a marketing gimmick to distinguish the variety from those being grown in the Northeastern United States.
So, although a U.S. yam is likely just an orange-fleshed sweet potato there is a real difference between the species that spans two continents.
Burning Caloric Myths--A Stanford research team has published a study that probably won't be a surprise to anyone: Consistent exercise works better in a long-term weight loss program than does dieting alone.
The report, authored by Abby King and colleagues from Stanford University School of Medicine, was published in this month's Archives of Internal Medicine.
The research, begun 18 months ago, was designed to study "the weight loss patterns of 155 men between the ages of 30 to 59 (in order) to determine effective methods of successful weight loss and maintenance," according to the article.
The results indicate that "dieters gained back more weight (8.51 pounds) than exercisers (4.77 pounds)."
Those on a fitness regiment should not be too smug, the authors caution.
"Without continued supervision both groups regained significant amounts of their original weight," the report stated.