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#57. There exists no food that could not benefit from the addition of hot sauce.

Yes, folks, I'm a hot sauce freak. Right now, as I type, I have no less than two dozen bottles of hot sauce in the house. At least. Wait, I'll go count. I don't want to exaggerate, nor sell my current collection short. Just a sec; I'll be right back.

*time passes* (Go ahead, take a breather. This'll take me a minute or two.)

Okay, I'm back. And the count is twenty-seven. Twenty-seven bottles of hot sauce, plus six jars of salsa, two kinds of spicy grilling 'rubs', and a bottle of 'Old El Paso Taco Sauce'. (Which doesn't count as hot sauce because it's not hot. You could pour that shit on your cereal on the morning.)

I'm pretty much at full capacity at the moment -- to be completely fair, three of the hot sauces are unopened because there's not room on the 'pepper shelf' in the fridge yet. But a few of the existing bottles are near the end, so I'll get a chance to pick some more up soon. Which is very exciting; there's nothing like picking out a new hot sauce or three to compliment whatever food we're going to be having. If beer is the 'nectar of the gods' (and it is, of course), then hot sauce is the 'comdiment of the immortals'. Take that, mayonnaise!

My tastes in hot sauce run pretty much through the whole spectrum of flavors and heat, from the sweet and mild Pickapeppa to the smoky, flaming-hot Dave's Insanity Sauce. As for the latter, when they say, 'Use this product one drop at a time', they're not fucking around. Trust me on this one -- if you want to be able to sit down for the next three days, take it easy with the Dave's. Most 'Hot! Hot! Hot!' hot sauces are just posing, trying to get you to buy their watered-down crap. Dave's is different -- there should be a surgeon general's warning on the bottles, and maybe a Mr. Yuck sticker. It's just that hot.

Speaking of disappointing advertising, I've found that most of the 'gimmick' sauces -- like gimmicky beers -- are poor examples of the craft. Some are pure heat and no flavor; others are just watery, bland disasters. There are a couple of exceptions, of course. Blown Away, for instance -- with a Clinton 'n' Monica rendering on the label -- is actually not bad, and has a nice punch. But generally, if you're buying a hot sauce for the name, or the label, keep in mind that those are the only things of value that you're likely to get. And the best thing you can do with the contents of the bottle is pour the crap down the sink. (Or spill it onto a blue dress, if you're into that sort of thing.)

But a good hot sauce? A truly well crafted hot sauce is a thing of beauty, and can be used with so many foods. Chili and burritos and tacos, of course. But also hot dogs, or chicken, or rice dishes. Casseroles and salads, pasta and burgers, potatoes and stews. There's just about nothing that a good hot sauce can't improve.

You have to be careful, though. Just as there are all kinds of foods, there are all sorts of sauces, too. Some are pretty straightforward -- mostly peppers and vinegar and salt. Like your Texas Pete's and Tabasco and Louisiana brand hot sauce. These are your staples, for sandwiches, TexMex, and grilled food. They'll add just a touch of heat and some peppery flavor, so they're also good for 'cutting' other, less tame sauces, if you can't stand the heat.

But the real stars are the funky sauces. The mango-based Inner Beauty, tangy Melinda's, and the musky, smoky VooDoo Jerk Slather. These are the concoctions that keep me coming back, because they're so versatile, and so tasty, and they're not afraid to burn you if you're not careful. Man, I'm getting hungry just thinking about these, and most of 'em are in my fridge right now, along with two handfuls of their closest friends and relatives. I think I'm gonna have to cut this post short, and find something to pour some hot sauce on. Maybe that Old El Paso on cereal idea's not so bad. Hmmmm...

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