Why do we torture
ourselves? I don’t mean that we prise secret
information from ourselves Jack Bauer-style to
prevent total nuclear devastation in the next 120
seconds. I’m thinking more about the things we do to
our own bodies because we “enjoy” them.
By the way, anyone not familiar with Mr Bauer
obviously doesn’t watch the TV series 24, in which
this Jack Bauer bloke goes around shouting at people
either before or after he tortures or shoots them in
the name of saving the world. Cracking stuff.
Back to this self torture thing – tattoos are a case
in point. Why would any rational person want some
dodgy, long-bearded hippie-type to jab a needle into
his skin several hundred times per second? Even
worse, this torturous procedure is etched forever
into their epidermis. Not for me, thanks.
They do that bizarre, body-piercing thing, too. I
don’t really understand why anyone would feel the
need to have large chunks of metalwork inserted into
various body protrusions. I understand that a
gentleman’s most treasured possession isn’t immune
from this process. I’m fairly sure I’m not the only
chap whose eyes water at the thought of body
modification down there.
What about that weird thing we do in front of the
TV? We stare blankly at it, despite the inanity
level of whatever happens to be on it. We even
complain about how “this program is complete
rubbish”, but somehow the effort of reaching for the
remote and pressing that red button in the corner is
just a little too much. We would rather put
ourselves through the anguish of watching this
nonsense, then whine about it afterward.
Most readers of this publication have probably been
in a plane at some stage in their lives. I would bet
that the vast majority have spent well over half a
day stuck in the same seat flying from elsewhere on
the globe. We get bored stiff sitting there for so
That’s probably why we consume the contents of those
silly little foil tray without batting an eyelid.
The stuff in them is usually totally unidentifiable;
I’m convinced the only reason they hand out those
menus after you get in the air is so that you at
least have a vague idea of what’s sliding down your
More often than not, you wouldn’t touch this
so-called “food” with a 10-foot bargepole; it’s
nasty. We nevertheless commit senseless acts of
cruelty on our taste buds every time we fly – yet
another way we find to torture ourselves. You’ve
probably guessed that I don’t fly business class
There’s one form of food prevalent in this part of
the world that’s probably more responsible for acts
of self torture than any other – the chili. This one
I rather enjoy, in a perverse sort of way. Why is it
that I can have tears rolling down my cheeks and
still want to shovel another spoonful of the stuff
into my mouth? Utter madness.
The chili plant, or phrik in Thai, I presume, is
ludicrously easy to grow. In fact I reckon that the
average Thai home has more chili plants in it that
have started by accident than ones they’ve
deliberately planted – they appear without warning.
There are probably only a couple of things you need
to remember in order to keep them alive: Water them
regularly and keep them in a well-lit place. Chili
plants are fairly robust and can take plenty of
abuse – in fact given what they do to us, they
probably deserve it – but if you look after them
well, they’ll grow even better.
The first step to growing a chili plant is obviously
the germination of the seed. Shallow plastic
containers are perfect. Put a soggy mass of paper
towels about a dozen thick in the bottom, put the
seeds on this about a couple of centimeters apart,
then lay another paper towel over the top,
sandwiching the seeds between them. The towels
should be wet, but not quite so everything is
underwater; just enough to be soggy. After a few
days to two weeks, the seeds will inevitably start
to do their thing.
Once they’ve germinated, transfer the seedlings to
either compost-filled seedling trays (a bit like
plastic egg containers) or small black plastic bags
with holes in them, half a centimeter below the
surface. Make sure the root points downward, by the
After a few more days the seedlings will slowly
appear from the soil and start to develop leaves.
You can keep letting these grow, but if you’re not
careful you will get tall, leggy plants that will
give you limited fruit output.
That’s where pinching comes in, which is done to
make the plants grow bushy. When a stem gets a few
sets of leaves on it, you should pinch off the tips
of the sets. Don’t just remove the leaves at the
ends – you need to get the stem too.
The theory behind pinching is survival. If a plant
has lost the end of a stem, presumably something ate
it or something else got in the way. If it just
keeps growing in that direction, then whatever cut
off the stem is likely to do it again, so the plant
starts growing stems from the leaf joints along the
stem; developing sideways to hopefully avoid the
danger that chopped off the original. Who said
plants were thick.
Eventually, if you do this every couple of weeks,
the whole plant will grow fairly bushy and end up
with lots of spots for fruit to grow from. And yes,
a chili is a fruit. Initially you’ll probably be a
bit worried that you’re slowing down the plant
growth, but you will end up with a more productive
plant – honestly.
As we don’t exactly live in the most temperate of
climates, they’ll probably need watering every day
for most of the year if they end up in a pot. Water
the soil until damp, rather than wet.
Once your plant is up and running, wait for the
little white flowers to appear. After a week or two,
the flowers will wilt and die off and a chili will
gradually take its place. They’ll take another
couple of weeks to grow and can be left on the plant
for as long as you like; they’re even good when they
start to shrivel a bit.
Chili plants, or more specifically the fruit they
produce, are insane things. And we’re probably the
only creatures on the planet daft enough to actually
want to eat them. Actually, this could be an added
bonus for a tattoo-lover. Long-bearded hippie-types
with needles and Tabasco sauce would be even more
painful than daytime TV. But only just.