Sacha Pfeiffer in the Boston Globe:
McDonald’s has its Chipotle BBQ Snack Wrap; Friday’s has its Wicked Wings. The spice-driven cooking of India, Thailand, and Sichuan China is responsible for a growing percentage of American takeout dollars every year. It’s clear that Americans have developed an addiction to food with sinus-clearing pizzazz.
Why is hot so hot? The conventional explanation is that the nation has an increasingly adventurous palate. Immigration and prosperity have made Americans more sophisticated eaters, pushing wasabi peas into the mainstream, along with chili-Thai lime cashews, cayenne chocolate bars, and other high-octane combinations.
But some food scientists and market researchers think there is a more surprising reason for the broad nationwide shift toward bolder flavors: The baby boomers, that huge, youth-chasing, all-important demographic, are getting old. As they age, they are losing their ability to taste – and turning to spicier, higher-flavor foods to overcome their dulled senses.