Dietribes: Hot Sauce


• Tabasco sauce is like Kleenex or Band Aids, or even Coca-Cola here in the South -- a brand name that has become a catch-all for products bearing its likeness. Of course, these products achieved household-name status because of their market dominance, but in the following facts I will attempt to call Tabasco by name when I mean Tabasco®, and hot sauce for everything else! (It seems Tabasco has a rather fiery temper on the subject)

• Forbes gives us the whole story: "Because the Tabasco brand spans so much of America's industrialized history, the pepper sauce's journey tells us as much about the evolution of American industry as it does about the specifics of taste bud-piquing pepper sauce. In 1906, a year after Congress passed the Trademark Act, the McIlhennys trademarked the name "Tabasco," despite its being a place name--which would normally preclude it from trademarking--and a type of chili used in numerous hot sauce products at the turn of the century. Rothfeder suggests that Edmund's son's friendship with President Theodore Roosevelt may have greased the wheels at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Nepotism or not, the McIlhenny lawyers have, since then, kept the postal service busy carrying threatening letters to any and all companies or individuals using the word Tabasco."

• So what's the deal with those tiny hot sauce bottles? Sure, a little of what it contents goes a long way, but according to the lore of the Founding Family of Tabasco, the McIllhenny's, discarded cologne bottles were first used to distribute their sauce to family and friends prior to marketing it commercially. In 1868 Edmund McIlhenn himself referred to the "cologne bottles" in business correspondence with a New Orleans glassworks.

• The spiciest archeological site in America might be the old Mcllhenny Plantation on the Gulf Coast, run by the University of Alabama. "Here, bottles of the 135-year-old hot sauce are the equivalent of ancient coins," and century-old bottling practices are illuminated.

• Hot sauce is used to spice up your food and sometimes your libations. Now, capsaicin, the active principle that allows chili peppers to numb your tongue, is now being used to numb knee pain.

• But just how hot is too hot? Unfortunately an amateur chef's death in 2008 occurred the day after eating a "superhot" chili in a bet with his friend over who could make the hottest dish (some reader will tell us if this is possible or not, I'm counting on you!)

• You may be unsurprised to learn that there is a state in Mexico called … Tabasco!

• When I mentioned this article to my mother, she suggested I include a link to Paula Deen's famous Southern Fried Chicken recipe that uses a pepper hot sauce as a not-so-secret ingredient.

• I'm not a big one for spice and dousing things with hot sauce, but I have a feeling you Flossers are going to tell me some tasty and interesting ways to apply hot sauce that I just might have to try! And what's the spiciest thing you've ever consumed? (and did you regret it?)

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‘Dietribes’ appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.