Is there any doubt that Jamaicans love pepper? Jerk pork, pepper shrimp, Solomon gundy and even the humble beef patty; none are considered fit for consumption unless they are infused with liberal doses of pepper. For many Jamaicans living abroad, a trip home is considered a complete waste if they are not able to procure a few bottles of Grace Hot Sauce or Pickapeppa Sauce to take back to “farin”.
Consider the behaviour of the average Jamaican at dinner – and this includes the most humble home and sometimes even the poshest restaurant. More often than not, the meal will be liberally sprinkled with hot sauce even before we’ve tasted said meal to determine whether a little extra “fire” is needed.
Another common practice amongst hardcore Jamaican pepper lovers is slicing up a small “scotch bonnet” or “bird” pepper to be kept at the side of the plate and eaten with each bite of food. For the unitiated, please note that these types of pepper can be volcanically hot. They are not for everyone.
This type of pepper consumption requires an iron stomach. Should a novice (your average adventurous-but-foolish American for example) attempt to spice up his meal with a little bird pepper the result is likely to be laboured breathing, profuse sweating, a runny nose and a burnt tongue. Why, this unfortunate American might ask, do we need all this pepper? Who knows? Perhaps we equate heat with flavour. After all, we’re not gourmets concerned with delicate hints of oregano and subtle infusions of paprika. We want food to grab us by the neck, slap us around and send us home happy!