I grew up on my mother’s cooking, and as my mother is French-Quebecois, I was not exposed to spices of any kind until I was well into my teens. Seriously, my mother cooks the blandest food known to mankind. English food seems daring and risky by comparison. It’s not her fault, she just cooks the food she happened to grow up on. Of course, as she became Americanized, she became a little adventurous. I remember being excited when she announced that she had found a recipe for chili and was going to make it for dinner. Chili! It sounded so exotic! Then I sat down to dinner and my mom served it to me. On a plate.
There’s something intrinsically wrong about chili served on a plate. It’s like serving a pork chop in a waffle cone, you don’t have to have been exposed to pork chops or waffle cones before to know that something is very wrong. And as I scraped up a bite of chili and ate it, a thought entered my head. “Hey, do we have any of that Tabasco sauce?” My brother had once shown me the full bottle of Tabasco that was sitting unused in the back of a cabinet filled with things my mom purchased for some reason, but didn’t have the heart to try. Like Ayds diet candy. She had a box of that back there too.
“Why would you want Tabasco?” my mom asked, wrinkling her nose in disgust at the idea. From her point of view, the thought that someone would want their chili to be spicy seemed borderline insane. “Isn’t chili supposed to be hot?” I asked. “I don’t know, but I think this chili would taste good if it was spicy, that’s all.” My mom retrieved the bottle and the family watched expectantly, assuming that I’d start screaming and clawing at my tongue the instant the stuff made its way into my mouth. Instead, after the first test bite, I began putting a lot more Tabasco on my chili. “Stop! Stop! Stop! You’ll burn holes in your stomach!” my mom protested. Well I didn’t, at least not that night. And not any night afterwards, for that matter. My love affair with Tabasco had begun.
For a while. my mom restricted the use of Tabasco, which I vigorously protested. My mom seemed to think that Tabasco would rot holes in your stomach, and so for a while Tabasco usage in my house was reserved for the occasional prank. For instance, waking someone up by pouring a shot glass full of Tabasco on their lips is very, very entertaining as long as you have a solid lock on your bedroom door and resolve not to go to sleep for the next three months.
(I had a friend in college who used Tabasco in a prank, which could probably be better classified as a case of assault. He had a Vietnamese roommate who was rude beyond belief. He never spoke with people, simply barked orders at them. “You! You leave room, now! Now!” He’d bark. Or, “You! You be quiet! QUIET!” Even if he wasn’t mad, the orders kept coming. “You! Pass salt! Pass salt NOW!” And despite many patient explanations that this was considered rude, he insisted on continuing to talk like this. “Rude? You rude! You being rude now! You leave. Now! YOU LEAVE NOW!” My friend finally solved the problem by replacing the guy’s prescription eyedrops with Tabasco.)
But over time, my mother relented, and I became a Tabasco-holic. Rice? Needs Tabasco. Potatoes? Tabasco. Pasta? Tabasco. I don’t much go for sweets, so I don’t have to worry about how to liven up ice cream or anything like that, but if there’s a dish that couldn’t stand a dash of the red stuff, I haven’t met it. And what Bloody Mary isn’t complete without the Red Awesomeness?
Of course, as I got older I started coming back down to earth a bit on the Tabasco usage. Most homemade meals, such as my patented Italian sausage spaghetti sauce, are complex enough that the Tabasco detracts from the culinary experience. And I’d never ruin my marinated New York Strip steak with Tabasco, as it is perfect as is. Even meals that call for Tabasco such as my Jambalaya recipe and my six-hour, batshit-loonball chili recipe which calls for seriously wacky things like a cup of coffee only get a hint of Tabasco. Drowning those meals out with Tabasco would be like putting a cup of Worcestershire sauce in a pint of beer: Why?
But if it’s processed food, like Mac ‘n Cheese (a staple of any family with kids), or Ramen noodles (a staple of college students everywhere), I T-bomb that shit back to the stone age. And then I laugh at my mom, who thought that it would rot my stomach out.
Apropos of nothing here, does anyone know what it means when your piss burns a hole through the back of your toilet?