Why would you want to roast hot peppers? I’ll tell you why. Today you cannot burn a small pile of weeds in your yard without someone calling the fire department. Well, that is understandable for we would all do it to our neighbors. We cannot seem to be able to tolerate any inconvenience. Today we have the garbage collection system so we do not need to put up with anyone’s smoke. We cannot throw any bit of debris like dry seaweeds into the sea for the environmentalists would be behind us, and indeed all of us are now environmentalists for we are all very conscious. But that is how it used to be done and it was right then, but not now. But let us go to the point of roasting peppers.
First of all roasting peppers was for eating purposes. The problem used to be that when you roast peppers on a hot plate, either a “comal” or a “sarten” (a hot plate or frying pan) the peppers release a very aroma that causes people to choke or suffocate or at least show some type of allergic reaction. It is a very strong aroma. For that reason, people used to roast their peppers very early in the morning when people were still asleep. Another solution so as to not cause annoyance was to go to the kitchens on the back street and do the roasting where the breeze would carry the aroma away from the populated area. Very considerate villagers, right?
Now why would you want to roast peppers? Roasted peppers were used to make that very special black recado, which was the main seasoning for the black relleno or chirmole. They were also used to prepare a delicious sauce along with onions, garlic, cilantro, parsley and tomatoes. This tomato sauce used to be called “chil tomate”. Nothing beats that in your beans, over your fish, and in your tacos.
Now I will tell you a SECRET! Do not reveal this to anyone, but peppers used to be roasted also to make a special potion used to do “Obeah” or to cause some evil spell on someone. There used to be some persons in San Pedro who used to practice obeah or witchcraft. Believe me, I do not know the recipe but it involved burnt peppers, cat hair, sand from the cemetery, special waxes, and a few other things, but why bother with learning that. There is enough evil around for you to want to learn some other form.
Back again to the culinary arts. Peppers were an important part of the diet because apart from fish there were not other meats available. Therefore, to add to the menu, some chil tomate rolled in tortillas made a delicious lunch. And if there were no tomatoes, well the peppers alone did the job. There were people, especially Mestizos, who ate only corn tortillas rolled with pepper and vinegar, sort of a pepper taco. I certainly do not recommend that for the menu at “Caliente Restaurant”, but that was how it was twenty five years ago. Do people not roast peppers anymore? How come we do not hear about people suffocating as they used to twenty five years ago?