I love food (as I have mentioned before) but I am also very boring and predictable in my choices. My favourite meal is Penne Arrabiatta. I love the tomato/chilli/garlic combination. I was brought up on the indian staple of curry, chappatis, rice and dal with salad. My family knows, my friends know, I do not do HOT food. I cannot cope with hot curries be it Indian, Thai, Chinese, japanese, Singaporean… But the penne dish is different and I have realised why. It is because the heat is separate from the main flavours. With curries and stir fries the heat is introduced at the beginning of the dish, it melds with the other spices to create a single flavour. The chilli is like the shiny flash of ribbon threaded through the delicate lace-work of spices. There is no escape from it. No avoiding its corrosive quality as the piquant oil adheres to the soft recesses in your mouth, refusing to be dislodged with water.
I love curries. It is one of my comfort foods. But never a hot one.
Now, having said this everyone is surprised to see me indulge in a few jalapenos with my mexican chilli, shake some dried chillies onto my pizza and, most bizarrely, scoff handfuls of Waitrose chilli-stuffed olives. But it is the same thing again. The chilli, physically and pungently, is a separate single high note in the melody of flavours. It is distinct and that is its attraction for me. My friend Al defines it as flavouring versus seasoning. I’m still trying to work that one out.
Why am I talking about chillies in olives? Well, it occurred to me today, as I told my daughter off for lying to me, that the heat of anger is the same. When it is a separate, individual emotion that can be chewed on and discarded, leaving a distinct void ready to be filled with forgiveness and love then you know you’re sane. It is a necessary valve for excessive emotion. But when anger runs through every vein, colouring the blood an even sharper red; when it takes precedence over all other emotions, then you have a problem.
Passion is altogether different from anger. A hot heart, throbbing with passion, is irresistible, whether it is in annoyance, romance, love, desire, shock, humour. A hot heart throbbing with uncontrolled anger – Take heed. Run as fast as you are able and don’t look back! I know someone who is a borderline psychopath. She hides it well, has a job but no friends (first clue?), a family none of whom can stand her (second clue?) and a son who has been cowed into submission. I learnt early on and escaped her orbit as soon as I possibly could. To all you women out there in destructive relationships, I may not know your individual cases but I do know that staying and accepting the abuse gives the wrong message. Almost a reward. You may consider it loyalty, that you won’t run at the first sign of a hiccup, but to the abuser it says ‘I can do whatever I want’. Your relationship is not the chilli in the olive. Those don’t hurt.