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Jimmy Nardello. Interesting Man, Interesting Pepper.

(post, Cristin Couzens)


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The first time I ate a fajita was at Chili’s.  It was 1989 and I was on a date.  I had big hair and braces, and might have been wearing overalls.  But I hope not.

Before Chili’s opened on Route 9 in Framingham, Massachusetts, our American teen version of Mecca, we called it Chiji’s.  I mean really, if “Chili’s” hadn’t been pounded into your brain by countless hours of mass-marketing, when you first saw the neon sign glistening along the "golden mile" of retail nirvana, wouldn’t you call it Chijis? 

Anyway, Chili’s had red pepper lights strung up across the bar.  At the time, it never occurred to me that these pepper lights actually reflected pepper reality.  Or that a pepper could be so loved that its seeds would be carried from a remote region of Italy across the ocean by boat to Connecticut, grown anew with each generation, to end up in an Oregon farmers’ market 120 years later. 

But that’s exactly what happened to the Jimmy Nardello pepper. 

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