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Spicy foods and personality

October 25, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
American Conservative blogger Rod Dreher, spending the month in France with his family, is lamenting the lack of spicy food available in Paris. He wonders what food preferences have to say about the larger culture. His blog can be found at

I did some further checking and found a couple references to various studies linking a preference for really hot, spicy food to more risk-taking behavior. University of Pennsylvania researcher Paul Rozin has concluded that people who like extra hot chili peppers are also the sort who like roller coaster rides or skydiving and the like. Some of the preference may be genetic too. Penn State research also shows some biological differences between people that probably impact how intensely they taste hot foods and how much they enjoy them. Cultures that have a lot of spicy cuisine also train kids to eat hot foods from an early age. There's an interesting article on the topic at—personality—play—a—role—in—the—preference—for—spicy—foods.html

I'm not a risk taker. Any risks I take are highly calculated and I generally stay away from roller coasters and high places. I also can't tolerate even mildly spicy food, which I tend to chalk up to my "bland Scandinavian stomach." My second generation Swedish-American grandmother was notorious for cooking everything to the taste and consistency of plain white rice or boiled potatoes.

I'm not quite that bad, but I don't want jalapenos on my veggie sub and find even mild chili too spicy for my taste. I'm not a fan of spicy Mexican food or Indian curry. Salt and pepper are usually enough seasoning for my beans or vegetables.

I've heard newcomers to the state, particularly those from the Southwest, complain a bit about the state of North Dakota cuisine. That will probably change as the population expands and groceries and restaurants offer more varied foods, but I doubt I will be trying out the spicy varieties.

What's your tolerance for hot, spicy foods?


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