I first encountered Sriracha sauce in Schwarzenberg, Germany of all places. It’s a town of about 25,000 in the southern part of former Eastern Germany. Not exactly a place well known for its love of spiciness. But I was there on my mission, and I was visiting a family that had made us a treat for dinner: Mexican food! And they’d even gotten us some hot sauce to go with it. (I believe it was tacos or burritos, but it’s hazy at this point.) My companion at the time (Elder Urien) took one look at the bottle and scoffed, telling me (softly, and in English), “German hot sauce is totally weak. We’ll have to drown the food with this to give it any sort of kick.”
I’d been out in Germany for all of a month or so, so whatever he said was absolutely true. I nodded, thankful for the tip.
The family explained they’d gone through a lot of trouble to find the sauce, and they were particularly proud of how hot it was. My companion and I tried to keep the smiles from our faces. Silly Germans. This was the same family whose son had tried a drop of Tabasco and gone running around like a madman, desperate for water.
We each took that bottle with the rooster on it (“Sriracha”–what a silly name. It must be made up. It didn’t even sound Mexican.) and dumped a ton of it all over those tacos. We’re talking spreading it on like ketchup. The family watched all of this, aghast. What in the world were we doing? Were we crazy?
“That’s really, really hot,” the father (Brother Ebisch, as I recall) told us.
We nodded. “We know,” Elder Urien said.
It felt pretty boss, to be able to smother so much “hot” sauce on our food. Truly, we were manly missionaries. Missionaries who would show these Germans what spice tolerance was all about. Missionaries who–
FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S GOOD ON THIS EARTH!
If you can’t tell, I’d just taken my first bite. And suddenly, I found myself in a bit of a pickle. I’d just bragged about how great I could handle hot sauce. I’d proceeded to put this hellfire all over my food, and I was doing my best to pretend it wasn’t bothering me at all–even as my eyes were tearing up.
“It’s hot, isn’t it?” Brüder Ebisch asked us.
I coughed a few times and took a drink. Why were the cups so small in this country? “No,” I said. “Just a bit of a kick.” Could I wipe my eyes and have them not notice? Was I sweating that much?
And did I really have to finish two more tacos?
Somehow or another, I survived that experience. And I never touched Sriracha again. It was this mental block. I couldn’t handle it. But then last week in the grocery store, I saw it, and I said to myself, “Self, the time has come to prove to yourself that you’re bigger than a small bottle of hot sauce. The time has come for Sriracha!”
I love me some spicy, but I was intimidated by this stuff still. I put a bit on my rice that evening. Just a drop. I didn’t want to spontaneously combust, after all. My children watched with mouths hanging open. They’d heard my story of Sriracha before. They knew what might await me.
But sometimes, you have to show your kids that you can overcome fear.
I took a bite.
It was barely hot at all. And it was also extremely tasty. It turns out, when you don’t put a gallon of the stuff in your mouth at once, Sriracha is pretty much awesome sauce.
Take that, fear!