A Saucy Tome

June 11, 2014

In Soybeania, spices are salt, pepper, ketchup and Famous somebody’s barbeque sauce. A few years back, some folks opened a shop in downtown Alton dedicated to hot sauces. I didn’t hold out much hope that it would last. It didn’t.

New Mexico State University in Las Cruces leads the nation in hot pepper research. There is no store in that fine town that does not carry hot sauces. Restaurants feature bottles of hot sauce the way bars display liquor bottles.

I moved to Chicago in 1969 and discovered habanera peppers and sauces made of those vegetables, and Indian food laced with godly turmeric, and I did theatre residencies in Latino schools and Mexican mothers flamed me with tamales. But first, I lost my taste bud virginity to McIlhenny’s Tabasco Sauce, and it was love at first sip.

I put Tabasco in oatmeal, on peanut butter sandwiches, over tossed salads, in spaghetti sauce (“Genesghetti”), in all soups, on rice, on roast turkey, in a wok over vegetables and chicken, I dip pickles and French fries and carrot sticks and broccoli in it, I slather it on baked potatoes, on scrambled eggs, in Squash Eugene.

Hell, I even do lines of it. A fellow McIlhenny’s lover and I used to sit on his back screened porch, pour lines on our index fingers, and snarf it up. My stepdaughter, then eight, watched this ritual one night and held out her right index finger and I lined her and she slurped it, and she was hooked and she grew strangely listless. I got her her own bottle on her next birthday. It lasted a week. Once you’ve tasted the forbidden drop, you can never return to innocence.

McIlhenny’s Tabasco was first brewed in 1868. Edmund McIlhenny mixed red tabasco peppers and distilled vinegar and salt from Avery Island in Louisiana into an elixir of life. The family has been in the business ever since. The peppers and other ingredients are pulped into the slurp of love and aged in Jack Daniel’s barrels. You can buy it in teeny bottles or in gallon glass jugs. And by the way, put ten drops of Tabasco in your whiskey and get banged for your buck. Sniff McIlhenny’s and feel your sinuses clear and your body get all tingly.

And by the way, sit on your patio with an open bottle of McIlhenny’s and watch mosquitoes and gnats fly around you.

DO NOT! refrigerate!

0 calories, 0 fat. Yeeha! A-1 Steak Sauce and McIlhenny’s Tabasco and horseradish (Collinsville has a horseradish festival) are sin free, belly good, get you naturally high, cure your depression and keep pesky women at bay.

“I sing to thee, o McIlhenny/You’re zestier than was Jack Benny/No sauce in the house is a fiasco/Cured only by plops of sweet Tabasco/Sting my tongue and rock my schnoz/Help me lose the winter blahs/Never taste it when in haste/Spend the evening with thy heavenly paste/O McIlhenny’s to thee I toast/And pour on my rump roast/Not on riposte or compost or Facebook and cat scratching post or holy ghost or nanny goat or Rose Bowl float/I dream of thy rusty nectar/I have no rhyme for nectar, poor me/Pour me.”

Hamlet, Act II, speaking to his future omlet.



About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: eugenebaldwin.com. I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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