Last weekend was Memorial Day weekend which, in the U.S., is the traditional start of summer even though summer officially begins in late June. It looks to be a hot summer too, and I’m not just talking about the outside temperatures, which have been in the mid-90’s.
Earlier in the week, a co-worker was in South Florida for a business meeting and brought me a gift from one of my former bosses. The gift was one that cannot go wrong with me: a bottle of specialty hot sauce (Neal’s Hairy Ass). The ingredients are simple and natural: vinegar, tomatoes, onions, habanero pepper, serrano pepper, spices and garlic.
I’ll be enjoying this all summer long! Even though I have a good two dozen bottles of hot sauces on a shelf, there’s always room for one more if it’s an…interesting…one. Neal’s Hairy Ass appeals to me (OK, snicker now if that’s where your mind is) because I like habanero, serrano and garlic.
I can go through hot sauce quickly because it goes well with so many foods. Scrambled eggs. Breakfast sausage. Breakfast potatoes. Fried fish. Fried chicken. Raw oysters. Boiled shrimp. Pizza. Burgers. (In New Mexico, the burger palaces ask whether, not if, you want red or green chiles with the meal.)
Friends who knew me when I was young would be surprised at my devotion to spicy food. As late as high school, regular mustard was as “spicy” as I’d go. I don’t know when that began to change but I’m sure it was an evolutionary process before I arrived at liking it so spicy my scalp sweats.
In my previous job, my co-workers included a number of engineers from Pakistan and India. Whenever we had a work luncheon, they’d bring their favorite dishes in “mild” and “scalp sweating” versions. That exposure certainly educated, and trained, my taste buds. Over ten years, bite by bite, I became accustomed to, and a devotee of, spicy food.
When I came to my current job in 1993, I was lucky that my former boss and another co-worker also enjoyed spicy food. We always sought out Thai and Indian restaurants when we were on business trips and usually impressed the servers at how spicy we liked the meal. (Thai restaurants have a very fierce chili oil that is usually “by request ony” and which I always ask for to perk up the food.)
I don’t know if there’s a relationship, but before I came to spicy food I enjoyed sour foods. Dill pickles. Sauerkraut. Crisp green mango with salt (a Filipino favorite). Pickled okra (a fine Southern delicacy).
Summer is here. Fire up those grills! And before you bite into the food, ask yourself: “Wouldn’t this be even better with some hot sauce?” Of course it would….! Here’s a place to begin.