My Spicy, Saucy Love Affair

 

Everyone has a preference for spicy food. Some love it spicy, some just want it mild. I wouldn’t say I preferred spicy food ever since I was a wee child, because really, I think I mostly ate spicy food because Dad enjoyed it, and like most young boys I wanted to be like my dad. Oddly enough the first spicy food I remember enjoying was the hot cinnamon salt water taffy. Like a mad scientist, I’d try the regular cinnamon and the hot cinnamon to test my own reactions to the delicious taffy. Sure enough, the hot cinnamon was spicy and I couldn’t eat another right away.

I also discovered Tabasco Sauce from my dad who used it generously on his breakfast eggs. Again, I’d try the same thing and again I discovered I could only eat a few bites at a time at first. Of course, as others have noted, one develops a tolerance for these things and soon Tabasco was a regular part of my breakfast meals with nary a second thought. From there I’d enjoy the hot salsas like my dad. I suppose I may have stopped there and been perfectly happy if it weren’t for the late nineties.

About that time is when I met a man who briefly moved to Oregon from New Mexico. He was a large and charismatic fellow who, being from Albuquerque, enjoyed his hot sauce. And he didn’t mean what Oregonians at the time thought was “hot.” That stuff was child’s play for him and he often would tell us this. Well, much as I liked to pretend I was not affected by such things, the truth was that I could be, and being told that my hot-sauce-fu was weak only made me wish to become stronger. Thus, began a five-year journey where I tried hotter and hotter sauces.

This was not always easy. Hot sauce was gaining in popularity at this time, however, in 1998 I moved to Minnesota. Suddenly hot sauce was rather difficult to find. For example, on my first visit to the grocery store, late-twenties me went to get chips and salsa because those were staple foods for that bachelor. Chips were easy enough to find. Salsa … well, I found not hot salsa. Just medium, mild, and … extra mild? What sorcery is this? Yes, in Minnesota, I found the strange concoction known as “extra mild salsa” and my confusion at such a things existence was only topped by the befuddlement of my acquaintance from New Mexico. “What do they do?” he queried, “take the flavor out?”

I did indeed find a hot sauce shop at the Mall of America. My friends thought I was overly fond of the mall. Me, I was just happy to find a location where I could get sauce hotter than “medium.” It was later that I discovered a buffalo wing chain and eagerly tried all the sauces there. I kept raising the envelope until I hit the hottest sauce they had on the menu. I recall enjoying wings, then suddenly having an odd sensation on my lips. I quickly realized my lips were going numb. It took a full fifteen minutes before I could properly feel them again.

I suspect there I realized two things: one, no matter how much hot sauce I ingest, there’s always something hotter and two, maybe I shouldn’t constantly be pushing the envelope, especially as I’d lost contact from my New Mexico acquaintance and there was no one to taunt my selection of spicy sauces. There was no longer anyone to impress. Being in Minnesota at the time, there were only people who boggled at my desire to remove all sensation from my lips.

I had found I’d reached my limit. Habaneros remained on the menu. Anything worse than that I generally avoided. It’s been a good plan and mostly avoids the day or two long Journey of Regret that comes after I’ve eaten a lot of spicy food. It helps that, after getting married, I’m less likely to have a dinner of chips and habanero salsa. I’ve still a taste for the spicy, I suspect aided and abetted by allergies which leave me with little sense of smell. I suspect because of this I tend towards very strong flavors as well as certain food textures.

Halting the progress has done wonders for me. Suddenly I’m not just seeking the next big spice. Instead, I’ve discovered the various tastes of the peppers and how they are complimented. Habaneros’ distinct flavor pairs well with sweet foods. A habanero mocha was one of our favorites back in Oregon. And if you get a chance to try Burnside Brewing’s Sweet Heat ale, I recommend it. It pairs apricot with habanero. The heat sneaks up on you and tantalizes then is gone again making for a multilayered brew that my wife and I still like. I’ve found an enjoyment in the small independent makers of hot sauce. Farmers Markets seem, oddly, a great place to pick up some and their varied flavors make things interesting.

I still have quite the high tolerance for heat, at least higher than average. As a result, it’s very difficult to gauge how hot something is by a given vendor’s warnings. Sometimes I’ve heard, “Careful, it’s very hot” to only get a slight tingle. On the other hand, in general I’ve found when a Korean BBQ restaurant or when an Indian restaurant warns you that something is very hot, it is indeed very hot. On the other hand, I find I’ll even try the mild salsas as even if they don’t give that tingle, a good sauce maker will have plenty of flavor there. I’ve no word on whether that’s true for extra mild salsas. I’ve only found that in Minneapolis.

Published in Group Writing
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There are 26 comments.

  1. Al French, sad sack Member

    Sadly, Bridgeport Brewing is no longer.

    https://www.beervanablog.com/beervana/2019/2/12/oregons-oldest-brewery-bridgeport-has-closed

     

    • #1
    • June 20, 2019, at 10:09 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. Percival Thatcher

    The Atlanta region was bereft of hot spices. Except for a Korean restaurant across the road from Dobbins — their kimchi was outstanding.

    • #2
    • June 20, 2019, at 10:14 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  3. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas Post author

    Al French, sad sack (View Comment):

    Sadly, Bridgeport Brewing is no longer.

    https://www.beervanablog.com/beervana/2019/2/12/oregons-oldest-brewery-bridgeport-has-closed

     

    Amanda and I move from Portland, and not long after our favorite beer is gone. Coincidence?

    • #3
    • June 20, 2019, at 10:21 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. Al French, sad sack Member

    C. U. Douglas (View Comment):

    Al French, sad sack (View Comment):

    Sadly, Bridgeport Brewing is no longer.

    https://www.beervanablog.com/beervana/2019/2/12/oregons-oldest-brewery-bridgeport-has-closed

     

    Amanda and I move from Portland, and not long after our favorite beer is gone. Coincidence?

    Do you have any other Portland favorites I should stock up on?

    • #4
    • June 20, 2019, at 10:41 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. Arahant Member

    Sometimes, you just have to make your own sauce.

    • #5
    • June 20, 2019, at 11:16 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas Post author

    Al French, sad sack (View Comment):

    C. U. Douglas (View Comment):

    Al French, sad sack (View Comment):

    Sadly, Bridgeport Brewing is no longer.

    https://www.beervanablog.com/beervana/2019/2/12/oregons-oldest-brewery-bridgeport-has-closed

     

    Amanda and I move from Portland, and not long after our favorite beer is gone. Coincidence?

    Do you have any other Portland favorites I should stock up on?

    Made a mistake. “Sweet Heat” is Burnside Brewing. That’s a favorite of ours.

    Atlas Brewing does ciders, mostly. However their blackberry cider is downright incredible.

    I will always be a big fan of Deschutes Brew Co. and their Black Butte Porter.

    • #6
    • June 20, 2019, at 11:21 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas Post author

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Sometimes, you just have to make your own sauce.

    Yeah, you already talked about that. I like exploring what others have concocted.

    • #7
    • June 20, 2019, at 11:36 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. Shauna Hunt Member

    Have you been able to find enough spicy food in Utah to satisfy you?

    • #8
    • June 20, 2019, at 12:00 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. Arahant Member

    C. U. Douglas (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Sometimes, you just have to make your own sauce.

    Yeah, you already talked about that. I like exploring what others have concocted.

    At least I had the restraint not to link it. 👹

    • #9
    • June 20, 2019, at 12:07 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas Post author

    Shauna Hunt (View Comment):

    Have you been able to find enough spicy food in Utah to satisfy you?

    Yes, actually. Utah is where I discovered that when the Korean waiter says you can get spicy on a scale of 1-5 and then warns, “You don’t want 5,” he really means, “You don’t want 5.”

    • #10
    • June 20, 2019, at 12:10 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  11. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas Post author

    Arahant (View Comment):

    C. U. Douglas (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Sometimes, you just have to make your own sauce.

    Yeah, you already talked about that. I like exploring what others have concocted.

    At k=least I had the restraint not to link it. 👹

    Quite so and much appreciated! I’ll admit it was a bit disheartening to see yours.

    • #11
    • June 20, 2019, at 12:10 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  12. Arahant Member

    C. U. Douglas (View Comment):
    I’ll admit it was a bit disheartening to see yours.

    There is always room for more hot sauce.

    • #12
    • June 20, 2019, at 12:42 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  13. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas Post author

    One of the latest I got was from a local guy who calls his line, “Viking Hot Sauce.” Because when I think hot sauce, I think Scandinavians.

    Good sauce, though

    • #13
    • June 20, 2019, at 12:47 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  14. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    C. U. Douglas (View Comment):

    One of the latest I got was from a local guy who calls his line, “Viking Hot Sauce.” Because when I think hot sauce, I think Scandinavians.

    Good sauce, though

    I think “hotdish” has a different meaning in Minnesota. Well, we’re back to “hot” themed food, playing off the June group writing theme, “Hot Stuff!” We still have several open days as the summer season starts. Please stop by and sign up to share your own angle on the topic, however loosely construed.

    • #14
    • June 20, 2019, at 12:54 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  15. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas Post author

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    C. U. Douglas (View Comment):

    One of the latest I got was from a local guy who calls his line, “Viking Hot Sauce.” Because when I think hot sauce, I think Scandinavians.

    Good sauce, though

    I think “hotdish” has a different meaning in Minnesota. Well, we’re back to “hot” themed food, playing off the June group writing theme, “Hot Stuff!” We still have several open days as the summer season starts. Please stop by and sign up to share your own angle on the topic, however loosely construed.

    That’d taste a lot better with a bit of habanero sauce.

    • #15
    • June 20, 2019, at 1:05 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    C. U. Douglas (View Comment):

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    C. U. Douglas (View Comment):

    One of the latest I got was from a local guy who calls his line, “Viking Hot Sauce.” Because when I think hot sauce, I think Scandinavians.

    Good sauce, though

    I think “hotdish” has a different meaning in Minnesota. Well, we’re back to “hot” themed food, playing off the June group writing theme, “Hot Stuff!” We still have several open days as the summer season starts. Please stop by and sign up to share your own angle on the topic, however loosely construed.

    That’d taste a lot better with a bit of habanero sauce.

    Apparently, everything goes better with tater tots: 1o Hotdish Recipes from the Midwest.

    But the Pioneer Woman is with you: Kicked-Up Tater Tot Hotdish.

    • #16
    • June 20, 2019, at 1:52 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. Randy Webster Member

    C. U. Douglas: I’ve found an enjoyment of the small independent makers of hot sauce. Farmers Markets seem, oddly, a great place to pick up some and their varied flavors make things interesting.

    We buy Tennessee Cherry Chili hot sauce made by a local farmer and bought at a farmer’s market.

    • #17
    • June 20, 2019, at 3:21 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  18. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas Post author

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    C. U. Douglas: I’ve found an enjoyment of the small independent makers of hot sauce. Farmers Markets seem, oddly, a great place to pick up some and their varied flavors make things interesting.

    We buy Tennessee Cherry Chili hot sauce made by a local farmer and bought at a farmer’s market.

    Found a great local salsa maker here too. They have several great salsa’s and a decent hot sauce as well.

    • #18
    • June 20, 2019, at 3:23 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. dnewlander Member

    You guys need to mosey down to Albuquerque the first weekend of March any year for the…

    National Fiery Foods and Barbecue Show!

    It’s pretty fun, and you get to sample salsas, sauces, and barbecue sauce from all over the world.

    A few years back, the grand prize was won by a kiwi salsa from, naturally, New Zealand.

    • #19
    • June 20, 2019, at 3:23 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  20. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas Post author

    dnewlander (View Comment):

    You guys need to mosey down to Albuquerque the first weekend of March any year for the…

    National Fiery Foods and Barbecue Show!

    It’s pretty fun, and you get to sample salsas, sauces, and barbecue sauce from all over the world.

    A few years back, the grand prize was won by a kiwi salsa from, naturally, New Zealand.

    New Mexico … my old archnemesis … I see you’ve come for me again …

    • #20
    • June 20, 2019, at 3:25 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  21. dnewlander Member

    C. U. Douglas (View Comment):

    dnewlander (View Comment):

    You guys need to mosey down to Albuquerque the first weekend of March any year for the…

    National Fiery Foods and Barbecue Show!

    It’s pretty fun, and you get to sample salsas, sauces, and barbecue sauce from all over the world.

    A few years back, the grand prize was won by a kiwi salsa from, naturally, New Zealand.

    New Mexico … my old archnemesis … I see you’ve come for me again …

    Land of Entrapment, buddy.

    • #21
    • June 20, 2019, at 3:31 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  22. Clavius Thatcher

    I have a colleague who likes spicy hot food and has traveled to India with me. He is always asking the locals to serve him really spicy hot food but they always fall short on the heat.

    My theory on this is that most Indian food is spicy as in having strong flavor as opposed to spicy hot burn your lips. Some people don’t like strongly flavored food and would consider a spicy but not spicy hot food to spicy. I believe they amp up the spicy as in strongly flavored for my colleague but don’t go for the super-hot chilies.

    I have been served definitely spicy hot food at a small resort in Panvel, near Mumbai. I swear they put chili powder in everything, including the dahl (lentils). I needed to ask for some yogurt by half way through the meal. Yogurt is actually a magical cure for spicy hot food. It cools the heat immediately and all the way down the line.

    • #22
    • June 20, 2019, at 4:01 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  23. James Lileks Contributor

    I used to love extremely hot food. If I ain’t sweatin’, I ain’t eatin’. One day I went outside after a particularly incendiary vindaloo and my scalp froze, and that was a reminder that this had become a rather unpleasant experience. Good thing there are plenty of hot-sauce makes now who concentrate on a varied array of flavors instead of just hitting you in the month repeatedly with a flaming baseball bat.

    • #23
    • June 21, 2019, at 10:58 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  24. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas Post author

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    I used to love extremely hot food. If I ain’t sweatin’, I ain’t eatin’. One day I went outside after a particularly incendiary vindaloo and my scalp froze, and that was a reminder that this had become a rather unpleasant experience. Good thing there are plenty of hot-sauce makes now who concentrate on a varied array of flavors instead of just hitting you in the month repeatedly with a flaming baseball bat.

    In Santa Rosa, I worked with a man from India, Shishir, and one of the things he loved doing was taking people out to eat. Well, one day he took a few of us to this Indian restaurant in Cotati that was owned by an acquaintance of his. Well, Shishir orders and recommends the vindaloo to us. So of course like suckers we all try it. He eats it like it was no hotter than a hot fudge sundae, while the rest of us were awful quiet on the ride back to the office. It’s one of the few times I broke that rule not to eat anything too hot.

    Fortunately, I learned my lesson and further meals I never measured my spicy food against what he could stomach.

    • #24
    • June 21, 2019, at 12:24 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  25. Basil Fawlty Member

    New York City?

    • #25
    • June 21, 2019, at 4:36 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  26. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas Post author

    Basil Fawlty (View Comment):

    New York City?

    Git a rope.

    • #26
    • June 24, 2019, at 6:21 AM PDT
    • 1 like