Interesting piece in Nautilus, Why Revolutionaries Love Spicy Food: How the chili pepper got to China. As you may know there isn’t any specific thing which is “Chinese food”, anymore there is “Indian food”, or “European food.”* The article focuses on the emergence of Sichuan cuisine, which unlike Cantonese food, took to the arrival of New World chili pepper in the past few hundred years and seamlessly integrated it into its armamentarium.
What was a total surprise for me is the fact that it seems possible that the population of modern Sichuan has only weak demographic connections to classical Sichuan, as instability in the 17th century resulted in a population crash to around ~1 million. Subsequent to this over 10 million Han Chinese from the regions directly to the east, Hunan and Hubei, migrated into the region, replenishing its population. This obviously has cultural and genetic implications…. (if this was common, as some have asserted, then the low between population differences between Han regions in terms of genetics makes a lot of sense)
* My mother thinks most Americans eat hamburgers and cookies.