Friday, September 17, 2010
8, La Botella
I'm not a big fan of ketchup. Nor catsup, in its peculiar alternate spelling, thank you Hunts weirdos. I do like kecap, the sweet Indonesian soy sauce from which ketchup gets its name. But ketchup, meh. It's okay on fries. But I loathe it on hamburgers, where it leeches away all the beefy flavor. And hot dogs? It transforms them into vile sugary meat lollipops. But what comes in a ketchup sized bottle, among other things, that I am totally obsessed with? Hot sauce.
Oh God I love hot sauce. Let's start with the rich orangey red garlicky goodness of Sriracha. Which turns out to be a not particularly traditional American melting pot sauce inspired by Asia but realized in Asia-America. Then there's Kutbil-Ik Mayan hot sauce from El Yucateco. An unlovely brown, made from unbelievably hot habanero peppers, it burns so good.
Tabasco sauce? It tastes like slightly tangy vinegar to me. Pleasant, but not even slightly hot. Trappy's Indi-Pep with its hint of Caribbean flavor? Getting closer. Matouk's sauces, rich with tropical fruits and habaneros? It even comes in ketchup-sized bottles; delicious.
At my Santeria Ita almost fourteen years ago, the life divination new initiates into the religion receive during the week-long initiation ceremony, I received a letter that said I should avoid red foods. The people around me gasped and I am thinking, I am so off the hook for ketchup! Chango himself, kabiosile, would prefer I stay away from it. At first I was somewhat concerned that my love of hot sauce would suffer from this proscription. Salsa verde to the rescue. Green hot sauce turns out to be richer in flavor and variety than I ever dreamed: Indonesian green hot sauce. Mexican green hot sauce. Homemade sauce of tomatillos, cilantro and serranos. And, thank you Caribbean, for yellow hot sauce. All that 'Badian hot sauce with scotch bonnets and mustard? Mmmmm.
My kitchen is full of hot sauces for cooking. My table is full of hot sauces for condiments. Returning from vacations my travel bags are full of hot sauce souvenirs. Heck there was an after-work social function today that happened to showcase Latin food in the neighborhood of my office and I bought a bottle of hot sauce there.
I don't think Gil Scott-Heron wrote his classic song "The Bottle" about hot sauce. "And don't you think it's a crime, when time after time, people in the bottle". Oh man, no crime when that bottle is full of hot sauce. That's the taste of life!