Red or Green

Found in a 1992 New Yorker article about chiles and New Mexican cuisine.

According to scientists who have studied the effects of fiery food, a very hot chili sends the nervous system into a state of panic, and the brain reacts by flooding the distressed nerve endings with endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers—a sort of friendly morphine. The sudden shot of endorphins is what transforms the pang of hot food into pleasure, and also what makes it considerably more tolerable after the first few bites.

The article, by Roadfood writers Jane and Michael Stern, is not currently online.


First posted here May 2, 2008.

The Last Day of April Should Be a National Holiday

It’s Willie Nelson’s birthday.

He’s 82.

Annie Dillard is 70 today. Ms. Dillard won the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction for Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974). The New York Times has a page with links to several reviews and articles about Dillard and her works. (Eudora Welty wrote the review of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.) And Ms. Dillard has a web site.

Basketball hall-of-famer Isiah Thomas turns 54 today.

Radio and television actress Eve Arden was born on April 30th in 1908. To my generation she was Our Miss Brooks, English teacher at Madison High. The show was on radio from 1948-1957 and TV from 1952-1956. Many considered it a breakthrough character for women. That’s Our Miss Brooks in the photo with Richard Crenna as Walter Denton and Gale Gordon as Principal Osgood Conklin.

Casey Jones wrecked his train on April 30th in 1900.

John Luther Jones from Cayce (pronounced Cay-see), Kentucky, famous to us through song as a brave engineer who romantically died trying to make up time. In truth, he crashed his locomotive at high speed into a freight train that was attempting to get out of the way on a siding. According to reports he failed to heed warning signals that were out. The accident took place early in the morning of April 30, 1900. Jones was the only fatality. Jones was known for his affability and his skill in blowing a train whistle. His engine wiper, Wallace Saunders, reportedly idolized the engineer. Saunders wrote the original song. All you might want to know can be found in this 1928 article.

George Washington took office as the first president of the U.S. on this date in 1789. His term began March 4th, but because neither the House nor Senate achieved a quorum until April, Washington’s unanimous election on February 4, wasn’t made official until April 14. Washington immediately departed Mount Vernon for New York to take the oath and was met along the way with parades and dinners in every little town. As James Madison noted, Washington was about the only aspect of the new government that really appealed to people.

Louisiana entered the union as the 18th state on this date in 1812.

April 26

Today is the birthday of Carol Burnett, 82, and Bobby Rydell, 73.

Duane Eddy was born on this date in 1938, which would make him 77 today. Eddy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

One of the earliest guitar heroes, Duane Eddy put the twang in rock and roll. “Twang” is a reverberating, bass-heavy guitar sound boasted by primitive studio wizardry. Concocted by Eddy and producer Lee Hazlewood in 1957, twang came to represent the sound of revved-up hot rods and an echo of the Wild West on the frontier of rock and roll. Eddy obtained his trademark sound by picking on the low strings of a Chet Atkins-model Gretsch 6120 hollowbody guitar, turning up the tremolo and running the signal through an echo chamber. Behind the mighty sound of twang, Eddy became the most successful instrumentalist in rock history, charting fifteen Top Forty singles in the late Fifties and early Sixties. He has sold more than 100 million records worldwide. No less an authority than John Fogerty has declared, “Duane Eddy was the front guy, the first rock and roll guitar god.” Eddy’s influence is widespread in rock and roll. A twangy guitar drove Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” and twang echoes in the work of the Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Dave Edmunds, Chris Isaak and many more.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Cannonball,” “Rebel Rouser,” “Forty Miles of Bad Road” — they make me want to cruise Speedway Boulevard all over again.

Bernard Malamud was born on this date in 1914. Malamud twice won the National Book Award (The Magic Barrel, The Fixer) and the 1967 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (The Fixer). He’s also the author of The Natural.

Gertrude Pridgett was born on this date in 1886. She began performing in 1900, singing and dancing in minstrel shows. In 1902, she married performer William “Pa” Rainey and became known as Ma Rainey.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum has this to say about inductee Ma Rainey:

If Bessie Smith is the acknowledged “Queen of the Blues,” then Gertrude “Ma” Rainey is the undisputed “Mother of the Blues.” As music historian Chris Albertson has written, “If there was another woman who sang the blues before Rainey, nobody remembered hearing her.” Rainey fostered the blues idiom, and she did so by linking the earthy spirit of country blues with the classic style and delivery of Bessie Smith. She often played with such outstanding jazz accompanists as Louis Armstrong and Fletcher Henderson, but she was more at home fronting a jugband or washboard band.

Jealous Hearted Blues

Frederick Law Olmsted was born on this date in 1822. He was America’s foremost landscape architect of the 19th century and the designer of New York’s Central Park.

John James Audubon was born on this date in 1785.

John_James_Audubons_Plate_76_-_Birds_of_America_(Virginian_Partridge)