There’s nothing like the smell of fresh chiles in the morning. Having once been a molcajete grinding chilihead boiling up a passel of fresh chile peppers and tomatoes, I know how good capsaicin is at inducing coughing, watery eyes and clearing out a crowded kitchen. Plus it sure beats rubbing the stuff on a sore back or gimpy joint. Better in my salsa than on my knees.
Nonetheless, there was a small part of me that was sympathetic on news last week that the City of Irwindale, California had filed a public nuisance suit against Huy Fong Foods, the maker of the hot sauce Sriracha.
It was over the supposed effects the production facility is having on Irwindale’s residents. Cue the alleged scratchy throats, headaches and eye-irritation.
Feeling their pain.
Now, I say a small part of me was feeling their pain — but mostly, I wasn’t. I’m biased, after all. I like hot stuff. It clears the sinuses and livens the palate. Plus some of the locals claimed in the press that the whole thing was being trumped-up. To hear them tell it, there wasn’t even a problem — “Smell? What smell?”
As for Sriracha, I keep a bottle of the stuff in my cupboard. I’m partial to it in my pho and I like more than just a dollop in my spicy tuna hand-roll. It won’t grow hair on the chest but it will give you a bite.
And worse case scenario in response to the question, “Life without Sriracha?” Well, the Los Angeles Times even had some answers. There are alternatives and other hot sauces out there.
But in contrast to Yoona Park a.k.a. yoonanimous, the Portland-based blogging “wife, mom, and lawyer” who likes “the fiery hit of Tabasco” and is consequently ‘muy’ unhappy she’s finding more Cholula, than Tabasco these days, Tabasco is no longer an option for me. I prefer my hot sauce less “acidic, vinegary” and these days, more Cajun. But to each his own.
Not to say I wasn’t weaned on Tabasco. I once used it like I used to use ketchup — lots of it and on just about anything edible.
I even remember the parochial school nun — who unlike the Tabasco carrying diva Naomi Campbell who as related by Yoona carried the stuff in her purse — the good Sister kept her hot sauce in her classroom desk — the perfect condiment of choice chastisement for the unruly. Spare the rod but don’t spare the child the Tabasco.
As for myself, then, I’ve moved on. But as for Sriracha and the city’s motion for injunctive relief to halt operations at Huy Fong Foods until the plant’s pungent pepper and garlic fumes are reduced, — well, that relief was unavailable. “You’re asking for a very radical order on 24-hour notice,” declared Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert O’Brien in turning back the request.
This was good news for Sriracha aficionados worldwide. Many had feared a shortage or even a price spike had Irwindale’s attempt to stop production of their beloved “rooster sauce” not been denied. The case isn’t over, though. This was merely the opening skirmish.
Whatever happens, I’m not worried. I still have a molcajete and tejolote someplace and I know exactly how many chiles it takes to empty out a kitchen.
Photo Credits: “molcajete,” by Gabriel Flores Romero at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution; “SPICY adj. spic·i·er, spic·i·est: High-spirited; lively,” by Misserion at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution; “Sriracha sauce,” by Glane23 at Wikimedia Commons licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.