An interesting post on Anthropology in Practice speculates on why we like spicy food. The preference for sweet things is linked to the fruit, carbohydrates and energy. But if that is the case why do we like pepper? The author speculates that it may be medicinal, but if that was the case then cod live oil would be a condiment. A more interesting idea from Rozin (reference in the link) suggests that the taste of pepper allows us to think we are doing things without any real repercussions, to quote: Humans seem to enjoy situations in which their bodies warn them of danger but they know they are really OK. OK I can buy that, but we also eat and drink foods which we know will do us harm. I am getting to the age where I have to think twice before a strong curry, but I will still take the consequences. Ditto my great sin which is ice cream.
At another level look at the growth in extreme sports; the way that humans take on challenges such as climbing Everest without Oxygen; Rugby Union prop forwards at international level know they are condemning themselves to Arthritis in their 40s if not earlier. We go to the edges and beyond with great ease and frequently go beyond them. The idea of the noble cause and the hopeless last stand enter our myths. To life at the edge is to create possibilities beyond the edge and maybe that is the evolutionary driver.
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