Huffpost Taste
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Susan Winston Headshot

Really Hot Stuff

Posted: Updated:

Have you noticed how everything now is spicy? Dishes laced with jalapenos, exotic chilies, or peppers? I actually wrote this article before 60 Minutes aired their exclusive interview with the family-owned Tabasco Company. So while Tabasco may have started it all in the U.S., note that for thousands of years peppers have been a part of the diet of various cultures. We Americans were a little slow to come to the pepper table. But if you go to the supermarket and hit the pepper sauce aisle these days you will find hundreds of kinds of hot sauce. In fact, go to www.hotsauce.org/hot/lifelist.html and the list will boggle your taste buds. Even Amazon is in the game listing the hottest of the hot with names like "Dave's Ultimate Insanity Hot Sauce Hottest Sauce in the Universe", "Satan's Blood Hot Sauce", "Blair's Ultra Death Sauce", "Da'Bomb The Final Answer Hot Sauce", Zombie Cajun "The Antidote" Hot Sauce", and my favorite, "One F ---in' Drop at a Time Hot Sauce." There are hot sauce tasting clubs, ingesting contests, cook-offs, hot sauce crying contests and hot sauce diet clubs.

So a little hot sauce 411: Spicy foods can raise your body temperature, which if you are living in a warmer climate, is a good thing because it makes you sweat and therefore feel cooler than the hot air surrounding you. This would not have worked this winter on the East Eoast. Spicy foods also stimulate your circulation. For those of you who froze last winter, I guess that could have worked. Overly spiced foods can literally burn and blister your mouth. Not great if you have a hot date that night. But for the most part, spices stimulate you, not just your appetite but the rest of you as well. Spicy food can be a "wake-up" call to the senses. But according to OC Weekly (and I admit that I have no idea what that is) some of what is tickling your tongue is not just the sauce. There are four sauces that exceed the FDA's limit of culinary lead. Now I never even knew we were permitted to have lead in our food. We can't even have it in our paint so why are we eating it. No, I'm not listing those sauces just in case someone is wrong. I don't want to end up with a mouthful of the stuff unexpectedly. So is the sauce less spicy if lead-free? Is it the answer to the oil and gasoline crisis? CNN's Dr. Gupta reported on a guy who lost 70 pounds by ingesting hot sauce whenever he had a craving for something unhealthy and fattening. A slug of Satan's Hot Blood sounds like it can certainly dull your appetite as well as peel the paint off your wall. He goes on to cite the many historical uses of hot peppers such as aiding digestion and fighting infection. Too much of a good thing can also be bad for you leading to blistering of the skin or diarrhea. The Everything Hot Sauce Book claims that these amazing peppers can fight cancer, high blood pressure and even eliminate wrinkles -- that's what I'm looking for. Just put a little hot sauce on those crows' feet and watch them... and your eyesight disappear.

Hot sauce looks like it is here to stay. Bland food be gone! The meat and potato crowd better get with the program and learn to spice up your life. The Arizona Farm Bureau reports that the first commercially made hot sauce made its debut in 1807. Tabasco was introduced in 1868 and is the oldest surviving brand to date raking in more than $200 million a year. That's hot stuff! And there's money in them there chilies. According to The New York Times, peppercorns used to be used as monetary value "to pay fines, rent and taxes and to buy and free slaves." So how many peppercorns would it take to pay my kid's college tuition next year?