“I used to get sick at lot, like in high school with like, ah, chest congestion and all that lovely stuff. ‘Cause it’s, I guess, cold in the East Coast. So, uh, and I, and my parents would tell me, ‘oh, you should just eat chili peppers’ like red chili peppers ’cause their spicy.’ And you know my mother would always say, ‘So you father’s mother’ – so I guess my grandmother, ah, ‘she never never used to get sick ’cause she would always eat chili peppers.’ You know, and she said, “you know that’s the good thing about Mexican people they would eat all these chili peppers so they would never get colds and stuff like that.’ So, I don’t know why my mother would say that because my mother’s not Mexican, my Dad is. So he would say the same thing but my mother, being my mother, would really try to push that. I think she heard that from my Dad and just took off from it.”
The informant is from Arlington, VA. She said that she thought the concept of eating chili peppers to keep away a cold or to fight a cold made sense. The chili peppers likely kill the germs (i.e. a cold) and clean out the system. Though she has never tried it, she said it might work.
I think her analysis of why her Slovenian mother and not her father repeated this bit of folklore was telling. It seemed her mother may have had a more maternal instinct for trying to make sure her children were healthy and so grasped at this as a chance to do just that. She also may have seen this bit of folklore as a way to control something that was more than likely a great deal out of her control – that her daughter seemed to have a predisposition to getting colds in a cold climate. It may have relieved her that there was some way to help her daughter out there. I think it is also telling that Andrea has never tried this – that says to me that her Mom may have been trying to relieve some anxiety rather than truly cutting up some chili’s and putting them on a plate for her daughter. The informant’s conclusion that it makes sense that it would work may come from her theoretical biology knowledge as learned from her Neuroscience major.