A Journey to the Homeland of Hot Sauce

In a small courtyard in the sprawling Andean city of Sucre, Bolivia, Claudia Vicente Ventura unloads a bowl of chopped red and green chilies onto a flat stone. Wearing a blue apron and with her black hair plaited into two long braids, she takes another stone, smooth and oblong, hunches over, and rocks that stone back and forth over the chilies 
to mush them into a paste. She does the same with a bowlful of tomatoes. Combining the two, she adds chopped onions, stirs in some water, and tastes her latest batch of Bolivian llajwa (YA-hua), the hot sauce that seems to power this landlocked nation in the heart of South America—and the object of my quest.

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Denver Nicks
Tulsa’s Ambitious New ‘Gathering Place’ Offers Plenty For Travelers & Locals Alike

On a recent Friday afternoon in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I had America’s newest major attraction, Gathering Place, almost all to myself. Before the crowds descended on the 100-acre public park the following day for an opening ceremony and a free concert by The Roots, I explored the riverfront development with my tour guide, Megan, a PR pro in town from New York City. We climbed multi-story towers in the playground and slid down curling tube slides, played in the fog of Mist Mountain, wandered the shores of Peggy’s Pond, and on the swings of Swing Hill.

As Megan and I approached the perimeter of the new park where it abuts the Arkansas River, I was struck by a hazy familiarity and stopped dead in my tracks.

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Denver Nicks
Kill Columbus Day With Hot Sauce - TEDxJerseyCity

Before 1492, the cuisines of places like Thailand, India and Ethiopia were full of spices but they didn’t burn in the way of chilies, because chilies—with the chemical capsaicin that makes hot sauce HOT—are native to the Americas. Today, hot sauce is the most popular condiment on earth, and its story a parable of how immigration and cultural exchange enrich our lives and can transform our culture for the better. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

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Denver Nicks