“Oh boy!” exclaimed my husband. “There’s a hot sauce shop in town!”
We were away antiquing for the weekend in a quaint village populated by bed and breakfasts, art galleries and, apparently, a hot sauce shop. For my husband, this was like discovering that someone had bought you a lottery ticket and you won...if the lottery prize was a fireball that would make lava come out of your nose if you ate it.
My husband and I have a lot of things in common, but one place where we differ is on how spicy we like our foods. I like my food pretty mild, whereas he likes it so spicy that it makes his face melt off. If his tongue falls out, then he’s achieved optimum hotness.
Over the years, he’s progressed from a little splash of Tabasco to a generous helping of sriracha before he decided to venture out into the world of designer hot sauces. These little bottles filled with a variety of chilis and peppers come with warning labels that you usually only see on nuclear reactors. Supposedly, they enhance the taste of the food you’re eating. However, I’m not sure how they could enhance the taste of the food when they burn your tastebuds off.
Throughout our marriage, my husband has encouraged me to “try a little hot sauce with my eggs,” or “sprinkle a little on my burrito,” but I always declined, knowing that the sight of me with my eyes popping and my nose streaming was not a good look for me. For him, though, the hotter the better, and he was happiest when he would start to break out in a sweat that left me wondering if he’d just had too much sauce or was actually having a coronary.
“You can try any of the sauces before you buy them,” boomed the hot sauce shop proprietor. “Here are the spoons and the samples.” My husband eagerly took a taste of something called “Lethal Injection” and then chased it down with a sample of “Sudden Death.”
I noticed a little bead of perspiration on his upper lip.
“Those are good,” he said. “But I’d like to try something with just a little more heat.”
The owner went off to a locked glass cabinet and came back with something with three Xs on it and a skull and crossbones.
My husband took a taste. Sweat started forming on his forehead.
“Hey, take it easy there, honey,” I warned him. “We haven’t updated our life insurance policy.”
He dismissed me, tried two more sauces and then some habanero pretzel bites. At this point, he was dripping from his chin and his hair was wet.
“Here, try this,” said the owner, breaking off a piece of dark chocolate. Finally, something I could get on board with. My husband took a bite.
“Is it very hot?” I asked.
“Not too bad,” he said, offering me a piece. I took it and popped it into my mouth, forgetting that my definition of hot and his were entirely different. But it was chocolate. The love of my life. How bad could it be?
For the first few seconds all I got was that glorious, velvety chocolate goodness on my tongue. But then, out of nowhere, a heat formed in the back of my mouth and exploded.
“Ungh, ungh!” I gasped, pointing at my mouth as it hung open. My nose started to run and the top of my head went hot.
“Why? Why would you do that to chocolate?” I finally said after the storm had passed. “It’s HORRIBLE!”
My husband took another bite and then shuddered. The sweat drenched the front of his shirt.
“I think it’s great!” he declared. By now he looked like he’d been caught in a downpour, and I felt sweat trickling down my brow, too.
“This is all so good,” he declared breathlessly. “I don’t know what we should get.”
I shook my head. “How about a towel.”
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