The Hot Pain of Pleasure

Hot Sauces

Or the hot pleasure of pain. Sometimes pain and pleasure are indistinguishable. To hear  exulted cries from a separate room, you would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between laughter and sobbing. Tears are triggered by an intensity of feeling, and not limited to sorrow. The ache of a belly laugh can become unbearable torture. And sometimes, we are most susceptible to finding something funny when we are in the throes of a good bawl. Some pleasures are painful, and some pains bring pleasure. One can’t exist without the other, for each are acknowledged by the absence or passing of their equal opposite.

The love of all things hot and spicy is exactly this. Voluntary doses of pain for the sake of the sensation of hurt. There are not many other things like this. Jumping into icy cold water maybe. But I’m wracking my brain to think of something else we do that is so purely as weird as devouring little chilies we know will hurt us…and usually hurt us on both ends. We challenge ourselves and push it, knowing well the basic result, all the while taking it to the next level to bring forth a new strata and singularity of the hurt.

It is akin to blasting your mind out of your mind, until all that matters is the immediate sensation. Perhaps the pain of getting a tattoo can also achieve this zen mindful state; where every other dancing thought at once ceases.

For me, I put that shit on everything I can. And maybe one of the reasons I don’t eat a lot of sweets is because I can’t hot sauce and mustardize the hell out of them. I mentioned in a previous post that my refrigerator is not so much a container for food. It’s more like a medicine cabinet chock full of hot sauces. Tangy, sour, burning hot bottles that lie in wait to adorn even the most bland of savory things, making them instantly amazing.

Spice is a magnet for me. It determines where I eat out, what I cook, and by and large where I travel. And while I have to admit that I’m not as hardcore as these guys, I am truly addicted to all kinds of hot sauce. I am no expert on the matter, I’m just a dancer in the lobby of this vast ballroom.

Quite simply, there are just too many styles to list, and too many damn kinds of chilies to mention. So I’ll stick with my steadies. The go-to sauces that I try and keep stocked, and also a few that I only have the pleasure of enjoying when I’m back in North America.

For me, it’s all about the tang factor. It can be hot as hell, but if it doesn’t have that sour mouth watering bite, I’m not into it. I was addicted to Frank’s hot sauce for a while, and once bought a gallon of it. I thought it would last forever, but in the course of a few weeks, it was gone. And then I found my favorite tangy Louisiana style sauce of all time. And I broke up with Frank.

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Crystal is the perfect balance of spiciness and tang. It has a little more pep than Frank’s, a little less salt, and a fuller vinegar zing, which I’ve come to love. I can drink the stuff, and sometimes I do.

The second type of hot sauce I love are the Caribbean varieties. Not nearly as tangy as the Louisiana sauces, these are usually made with scotch bonnet peppers. They are often very yellow or bright orange, and they are hot and fruity. This one is my favorite.

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This list would not be complete if we didn’t do a smokey burnout and take this bus down to Mexico way. For me, there is only one sauce. One to rule them all, in my opinion. It’s this one. And perhaps my favorite hot sauce of all. This is often the one I stuff my luggage with on my way back to Taiwan. It’s the one I hide in the back row of my pantry. The one I don’t share. And the one I must ration out to myself to extend the good times.

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Last, but definitely not the lowest on my love pole, are the Asian hot sauces. Often fermented and a little musky, their fullness of red chili and saltiness, make them amazing flavor enhancers. I struggled a lot with this one, trying to choose one sauce that I think is a must have in every kitchen. And alas, it came down to this old standard.

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Even if you don’t love spice, you should. It’s good for you. Devouring copious amounts of hot sauce releases endorphins and makes you feel better, happier. Getting a full razor fire blast in your mouth is transcendental. It’s intoxicating and dizzying. Sometimes it’s even terrifying, like a roller coaster at the top of that first hill. You know it’s going to happen, there’s nothing you can do about it. But it’s exhilarating. And when it hits, you are swept away and time stops. All that remains is the pleasure. And the pain. And even when that majestic burn dies down, you know it will bid you one last farewell tomorrow, on the back end.

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