There are plenty of ingredients or toppings that add spice to a meal, but is there anything I can add to "cool" the food down? Does the jalapeño have an opposite?
-- Jay, via e-mail
The opposite of jalapeño is menthol (mint oil) and certain components of malt. Just as peppers' capsaicin stimulates our heat and pain receptors, menthol stimulates our receptors that say "cool" to our brains. Scientists are working on skin-cooling agents derived from malt because the sensation lasts longer than that produced by menthol. So, have a beer and a Junior Mint and it'll feel like Antarctica.
A Cheesehead friend of mine told me that some people who work in the Cheetos factory back East are turning orange from long-term exposure to that "stuff" on Cheetos. Is this an urban legend?
-- Cheese Guy, via e-mail
It is now. The cheez stuff is usually annatto, a spicy, powdery dye from a tropical tree, and maybe some chemical dyes. Calling on our usual reliable sources, a relative of a friend of a relative works with commercial annatto. He sez, the powder is usually added as a coating inside a sealed rotating drum. Free-flying annatto would be a health hazard from inhalation. But the stuff is used as a decorative skin dye among tribal people, none of whom work at the Cheeto factory, as far as we know.