The Hot Sauce Bottle Cookbook
by Linda Matthie-Jacobs
Published by MJM Grande
62 pages, 2000
Buy it online
Sauces with Sizzle
Reviewed by Monica Stark
There's probably a whole book in what it says about the culture. Why that, in these particular fiscal, financial and political times, collecting hot sauces should get to be such a done thing. Does it say that our culture is too bland? Has been too staid? Needs some spicing up? Has become blasé and needs an ever higher high?
None of this has anything to do with Linda Matthie-Jacobs' latest book, The Hot Sauce Bottle Cookbook. No political or philosophical questioning of the implications of the increased interest in hot sauce in North American culture, rather, The Hot Sauce Bottle Cookbook takes an intimate look at 10 specific brands of hot sauce, three recipes for each and, in most cases, a page of "Saucy Ideas" that offer trivia and tips that relate to hot sauce: "Try mixing a small amount of hot sauce with softened cream cheese as a spread for bagels or as a dip for vegetables or crackers." And, "Chiles and hot sauces have the positive health benefits of clearing sinuses and making one perspire. Great remedy to remember the next time you have a cold or nasal congestion." And so on. The book is concluded with a list of contact information for the manufacturers of the hot sauces mentioned and, finally, an order form for other books from MJM Grande and another for a hot sauce trading company.
The result is a weird little book. The Hot Sauce Bottle Cookbook packs as much information on its topic as I've ever seen into one very slender volume. The book is well, though oddly, produced: full color and glossy throughout, and with a hot sauce bottle-shaped die cut defining the outside of the book, it has more the production values of a magazine than a book. That production, as glossy as it is, combined with order forms and catalog-style information at the back of the book, gives The Hot Sauce Bottle Cookbook a commercial feel. It's an uncomfortable mix.
If you can get past that discomfort, though, The Hot Sauce Bottle Cookbook is an interesting and well-executed book. It was interesting, for instance, to learn that Dave's Insanity Sauce was banned from the National Fiery Foods Show in Albuquerque several years ago when, "one taster began to hyperventilate and emergency services had to be called." Or that several of the ingredients in Amazon Hot Red Sauce -- Tabasco, cayenne and habañero peppers -- are grown on 250 acres owned by the Amazon Pepper Company of Cartagena, Columbia that makes the sauce.
Since The Hot Sauce Bottle Cookbook is, at its core, a cookbook, it's important to know that the recipes rock enough to make you sorry there are only 30 of them. Pretty much a spicy foods expert by now, Matthie-Jacobs has included the gamut of possibilities from appetizers like Firecracker Shrimp and Hot Curry Dip to entrées like Screamin' Beef Burritos and Tropical Mango Glazed Chicken Breasts. Even a few drinks and desserts are included: no small feat considering the topic of the book.
While it's annoying to encounter brand names in a cookbook, it seems fairly obvious that many of these hot sauces are interchangeable in recipes, though quantities need to be experimented with to account for differences in the heat value of the various sauces. In fact, to make for an even test in the recipes I tried, I replaced the sauce with the personal favorites that are always on hand in my refrigerator. In both cases, the results were better than acceptable.
Overall, The Hot Sauce Bottle Cookbook is a worthwhile book for hot sauce lovers. Especially if, like the author, you're tired of just putting hot sauce on your scrambled eggs and in your tomato juice. It seems to be the political time for the resurgence of the hot sauce. | April 2000
Monica Stark is a Vancouver-based freelance writer and editor.