It's Chile not chilli
When I hear the word 'Chile', I first think of the plant rather than the country simply because chillies (*) form an integral part of my diet. This time, however, I'm talking about the country because a visitor from there made Chile the fiftieth country to visit my blog. That isn't strictly true as I only installed that nifty little neocounter on the 14th of December whereas this blog has been alive since late August of last year. And, for all I know, those countries identified as 'country not detected' and 'satellite provider' could well have been countries not already listed as visitors. But, be that as it may, I'm honouring Chile as the fiftieth country to visit here.
I don't have any particular fascination for Chile although I'd like to visit it sometime but I've always had a thing for flags ever since collecting and swapping flag cards in primary school. They used to come with bubble gum that the kids at my school bought from Jacobias, the Indian shop across the road from my school on Avenida 24 de Julho in Maputo, formerly Lourenço Marques.
Reading this blog, you may have noticed that this fascination for flags continues to this day. In a previous post about the Mozambiquan flag I mentioned that many of the colonial street names were changed after independence to honour the heroes of communism and socialism and that those names still remain even after the demise of communism in Mozambique. Interestingly enough, Av 24 de Julho never changed its name even though you'd have thought a street named after a date during the colonial era would have a significance inextricably linked to the colonial period. Well, I wish I could remember the real reason for it and google isn't being of too much help today. If I recall correctly, while the original name was tied to a significant Portuguese historical event, the same day of the year also holds significance for the Mozambiquans so the name was allowed to stay.
And since we're discussing the Portuguese in this 'chile post', it may interest you to know that Portuguese sailors were responsible for spreading chillis around the world. The hot, fiery taste of the chilli is synonymous with the cooking of vast parts of Africa, the Middle East, India, Thailand, etc but until the plant was introduced to those parts of the world by Portuguese sailors it was unknown there. Chillies were quickly and readily incorporated into Asian cuisines probably because the people there were already familiar with pungent and spicy flavours. But while the Portuguese were responsible for spreading the plant around the world, it was Columbus who was responsible for its discovery by Europe. Diego Álvarez Chanca, a physician on his second voyage to the West Indies brought the first chilli peppers to Spain in 1493 and wrote about their medicinal effects in 1494.
The most widely used chilli in Mozambique is piri piri. One of Maputo's most famous restaurants, a restaurant that's been there for many decades, is called the Piri Piri. It's famous for its uncomplicated but delicious seafood and, in particular, frango piri piri (piri piri chicken). Coincidentally, discussing the Piri Piri takes us back to Avenida 24 de Julho as that's where it's situated, about 5 minutes walk from where my school was situated. I usually got a lift or caught the bus home but there were times when I'd meet my mother there for lunch after school or we'd go there for a meal in the evening when my grandmother was visiting. There were other restaurants that I preferred to it but I loved tucking into pieces of their delicious chicken served with a pile of chips and salad.
I seem to have forgotten the original reason for this post and got waylaid by food, plants, history and nostalgia. So let's get back to the fiftieth country to visit this blog, Chile.
Well, since I know very little about Chile apart from the Pinochet saga, you'd be safer going elsewhere for information or anecdotes about the country. If you're interested, you may want to go here or here or here.
(*) While I prefer to spell chilli as 'chilli', 'chile' is also a perfectly acceptable spelling for the plant/fruit. And, in case you are wondering, even though chillies are indigenous to South America, Chile was not named after them.