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The Smoking Tongue

July 24, 2005

Day 5: Tabasco Hot Sauce

Tabasco. Who hasnn't heard of this sauce? Who hasn't seen this sauce? And how many people relate the words "hot sauce" to Tabasco alone?

In 1868, Edmond McIlhenny packaged his aged sauce in 350 used cologne bottles and sent them as samples to wholesalers. He was picked up by General Hazard's brother in New York, and the rest is history. In 2002, they unearthed the oldest known bottle of Tabasco in Nevada. 130 years old! The bottle's design has changed a bit since then, but not the way its made. Supposedly they age the pepper mash in oak barrels for 3 years before they use it. In today's age of cutting corners, I have to admit, Tabasco is high quality.

That doesn't mean I'm a huge fan. Too much vinegar for my taste.

Years ago, I somehow started using Tabasco. Just a few drops here and there in some soups - anything more, and it would be too spicy! Wow, times have changed. If you told me then that some day I could eat a whole bottle in one day, or drink it straight without any problems, I would have called you crazy.

Eventually I started buying bigger bottles of Tabasco to keep up with the amounts I was using. And then one day I was eating at a Cajun type restaurant, and tried the sauce on their table: Original Louisiana Cajun Hot Sauce. I was hooked, and switched to that brand for the next year. Eventually, I switched to other brands, and then found a whole new world of hot sauces that don't even use vinegar. That's when I became a hot sauce snob, and turned my noses down to runny vinegar sauces.

Anyway, it's nice to be touring these sauces again. Instead of relying on my shaky memory of how Tabasco tastes, I get to analyze it once again.

My first meal was breakfast. The #1 food to have with Tabasco is definitely eggs. Unfortunately, I screwed up and scrambled them. Big mistake. I should have kept them sunny side up, or over easy. Tabasco is EXTREMELY runny, and they didn't cling to my scrambled eggs at all. They fell to the bottom. Plus the memory of perfect Tabasco & eggs is definitely when it mixes with the runny yolk. I'll have to remember for next time. However, despite this hang-up, I surprisingly finished half the bottle with my eggs! And even more surprising was that my mouth was actually aglow with a nice warm buzz. Exactly the reason I eat spicy foods. I did NOT get this feeling with any of the other sauces earlier this week.

Oh Tabasco, how I've mocked you before, but your tart, vinegary flavor still packs a small wallop. From this day forth, I will never mock you or anyone that claims you're hot.

With half the bottle gone, and lunch & supper yet to come, I knew I'd be able to finish this sauce no problem. Unfortunately, we had to skip lunch. So that night I find myself stuck at a restaurant, looking at a huge plate of food already slathered in their Atomic Sauce, trying to figure out how I'm going to finish the rest of this Tabasco bottle. I poured most of it in my rice and refried beans, and simply grimaced down a too-tart, too-vinegary, 20 mouthfuls.

Believe me when I say, Tabasco was not meant to be used in this way.

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