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I am really confused about the "hot", "spicy", and "seasoned" usage when we talk about food.

  • "The food is too hot" - It sounds like the food is too warm, almost boiling to eat safely. But I have also seen people eating food at room temperature referring to it as "too hot" because of a high amount of chili they could not handle: Let's say the capsaicin was above their limit.
  • "The food is too spicy" - It sounds like the food has too much chili regardless of the food temperature. But I have also seen people complaining as "too spicy" because of too much of various non-chili ingredients (for sake of simplicity, let's say 0 capsaicin, for example, herbs like basil, oregano, mint, coriander, you name it).
  • "The food is too seasoned" - It sounds like the food has too many non-chili ingredients (again 0 capsaicin). But I have never seen anybody saying this, though it sounds logical to me.

I avoid the words like seasoning and spices on purpose as they seem to be used interchangeably.

Questions (I feel like an idiot phrasing the sentences like this, but it is the best I can come with to be clear):

  • How to express the food has too high temperature for eating and not to confuse it with possible capsaicin overdose risk.
  • How to express the food has possible capsaicin overdose risk to me and not to confuse with an excessive amount of non-chili ingredients like basil, oregano, mint, coriander, etc.
  • How to express the food has an excessive amount of non-chili ingredients like basil, oregano, mint, coriander, etc.
  • What is the difference between seasoning* and spices in terms of capsaicin? Can they be used interchangeably or spicy automatically assume at least some capsaicin present?

Disclaimer: The question what could hot and spicy mean? really didn't help me.

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  • "Spicy" does not solely mean "containing capsaicin". Peppercorns, cloves, turmeric, garlic (among many other things) can be spices. Aug 10, 2022 at 9:40
  • You are confused between herbs and spices. Aug 10, 2022 at 9:41
  • @MichaelHarvey: Yes, I am confused, that's why I am looking for the answer :D My understanding of "hot", "spicy" and "seasoned" comes from the usage I met regularly. Aug 10, 2022 at 9:42
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    @Chenmunka Not in my experience. In fact, it would sound weird to me to call something that was simply too salty "seasoned". M-W defines season as 1a : to give (food) more flavor or zest by adding seasoning or savory ingredients and seasoning as something that serves to season; especially : an ingredient (such as a condiment, spice, or herb) added to food primarily for the savor that it imparts
    – stangdon
    Aug 10, 2022 at 12:01

1 Answer 1

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Hot, when applied to food, can mean both "at a high temperature" and "spiced with chilli" You can usually understand the meaning from context.

To warn that the food has a high temperature, in a way that is unambiguous you might say

The curry is still hot; you might want to let it cool down a bit.

If you want to unambiguously warn that the food has an "overdose" of chilli:

The curry has a lot of chilli in it.

It would be rare to warn about "too much basil", but you could say

There's too much spice in the curry.

Seasoning generally refers to salt, black pepper and perhaps other "warm" spices. You might say,

The stew is overseasoned.

Normally this kind of avoid all ambiguity simply isn't needed. When someone says "I had the hottest curry on the menu" you know exactly what they mean.

So the usual way to say that the food was too spicy, and not confuse it with too high temperature is

(context context content) It's too hot (context context)

and the usual way to say that the food is at too high temperature is

(different context context content) It's too hot (context context)

That context could be body language, or it could be part of the conversation.

How's your curry?

It's too hot.

Too spicy?

No just hot, I'll let it cool.

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  • Without making a herb/spice distinction you could say 'this dish is over-seasoned', although this is very much a matter of taste. When I make a tomato based sauce for pasta I use what some people might think is a lot of fresh basil. British people used to be famously averse to many seasonings, preferring bland food, but not any more! Aug 10, 2022 at 9:55

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