Cholula Green Hot Sauce

And the Lost Art of Thumping on the Bottom of the Bottle

It’s no secret around our house that I like spicy foods. Indian, Thai, Cajun, Mexican — I love them all, but not for the reason you might expect.

It’s the blending of spices rather than the heat that I love. And sometimes, the heat is merely a result of a particular blend of herbs and spices. Still, I must confess: a generous dash of hot sauce can take a boring meal and turn it into a culinary adventure.

Probably the most obvious example of this is Buffalo Chicken Wings. Since their introduction in a bar in Buffalo, NY — hence their name — they’ve pretty much become standard fare in bars, restaurants, Superbowl parties, and backyard barbecues all across America.

All because of the hot sauce.

But that’s not the only use. And while the sight of someone pouring ketchup on their scrambled eggs makes me queasy, I use hot sauce on my own eggs. Breakfast and brunch wouldn’t be the same without them.

Which Brings Me to the Point

I went grocery shopping the other day. One of the items on my list was a particular brand of hot sauce made right here in Rochester. I figured a local store would be a good source of local products, but alas! Top’s is not Wegman’s, and so I had no luck. I really needed to replace my Empty bottle of Frank’s RedHot, but I wanted to try something different.

When I saw the green bottle of Cholula, I made my choice. Poblano and jalapeño peppers! I was intrigued. I was already familiar with their original red hot sauce — indeed, I had had it on my omelet that very morning — so I figured I’d give it a shot.

I love it! My only complaint, if I can call it that, is that it’s a relatively thick formula compared with its red cousin. While the red comes out of the bottle with a few shakes, the green refuses to budge unless I hold the bottle upside-down and whack it on the bottom.

But it’s definitely worth it. It also happens to be the inspiration for this story, as the idea came to me over tonight’s dinner: sausage, hash browns, and eggs.

Picking up the Pieces

It’s been over three years since you left me. Three long years of self-reflection. The first six months were the hardest: full of thoughts of suicide, of self-harm, of self-destructive behavior.

I simply couldn’t see how I could go on without you, or if I even wanted to.

But I muddled through, found a new place to live, made new friends. And stayed on my meds. I finally put the pieces of my shattered life together again.

Until Last Week

When you told me you were seeing someone new. I congratulated you, and even meant it. But I was glad we were talking by text, and that you couldn’t see my facial expressions.

As we talked, I realized that I had been holding out hope that we would someday be together again. I mean, that’s what you once promised me, wasn’t it? That you always wanted me in your life?

But I finally realized that what I was still hoping would happen wasn’t going to.

And I finally had to accept that fact.

And I have. Yesterday, for the very lasting time, I cried and mourned the death of Us. The unit we had become.

This morning I determined that no matter what the future brings, you’ll always have a place in my heart.

And I’ve also determined that no matter what happens in my life, I will never again love someone who doesn’t love me as much as I love them.

Tea Fuels My Writing…

And My Writing Fuels My Tea

Pretty nifty, the way that works out, wouldn’t you say?

As usual, I was out of bed by 8 this morning, and my first cup of tea was brewing by 8:10, and gone by 8:20, as I breezed through the morning news and weather.

No change in either: we’re still gonna get another 14 to 20 inches, and Trump is still the worst president in history.

But as Arlo said in Alice’s Restaurant, “That’s not what I come to talk to you about.”*

I’ve come once again to speak of the wonders of tea. The aches and pains of growing old. Childhood memories. Grandchildren. Everything that falls under the heading of “SSDD.”**

My writing is a reflection of my life in this regard: I rarely know what I’m doing when I begin each day, and I rarely know what I’m going to write when I fire up my writing tool.

A friend told me yesterday, “You know that part of your brain that says ‘better think about this before you blurt it out’? Yeah. I was born without that part.”

To which I replied, “I know what you mean; I like to be just as surprised as everybody else by what comes out of my mouth.”

And I’m pretty sure that explains why I’ll never be famous for writing The Great American Novel.™

I wonder: is it possible to age out of one genre and into another? Have I lost the spark or desire or whatever impetus pushes writers to write fiction? Am I condemned to writing memoirs and op-eds for the rest of my life?

When I was in elementary school back in the ‘50s, I was “fidgety,” “disruptive,” “smart, but doesn’t apply herself.” (The same was true in college, which is probably why I never graduated.)

What in the ‘50s was a character defect is now recognized as ADHD, or as mine has settled into, ADD. It’s the same thing, but without the hyperactivity.

Like so many other things from my childhood, what was once a problem or a hindrance has matured into an asset: my mind makes connections instantly, where other people have to ponder for a while.

But honesty compels me to admit that ADD can be a pain in the ass, too: sometimes ideas come so fast that they’re gone before I can write them down.

It makes me a lousy editor of my own works; there have been far too many times when I’ve sat down to edit a first draft only to look at it from another angle and end up rewriting it into something other than what it was originally.

This story is an excellent example. I started with the intention of how my consumption of tea and my writing are connected, but after 3 or 4 rewrites it bears no resemblance to the original.

Except for the graphic at the top of the page, nothing remains of the original.

But isn’t that a perfect example of what William Faulkner said?

In this case, the character took so many twists and turns along the road that I was barely able to follow him, much less catch up to him.

But then again, isn’t that what writing’s all about? Getting out of the way and letting the story tell itself?


*Hear it on YouTube
**Same Shit, Different Day

I Owe This Morning’s Tea to George Orwell

Not Prophecy So Much as Observation

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Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

73 years ago, George Orwell wrote:

“All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.”

Today I realized how true that is.

My tea cup of choice is a tall, 12-ounce cup from Starbucks. For the past 2 years, I’ve been brewing my tea with either 2 tea bags (PG Tips) or 2 teaspoons of loose tea leaves.

Such was my first cup this morning.

But it wasn’t so satisfying as it was yesterday morning. It didn’t seem strong enough for some reason. Two teaspoons of leaves didn’t quite satisfy me.

Each type of tea has an optimal steeping time, depending on its type and the drinker’s preference. For me, with my strong black Assam tea, it’s 4 and a half minutes.

For a stronger brew, one adds more tea, rather than increasing the steeping time, which only makes the tea more bitter.

For my second cup, I used 3 teaspoons of leaves. The result? Too strong. Finally, the third cup, with 2–1/2 teaspoons of leaves, was perfect.

George was right.

Now my only problem is trying to figure out how to brew a cup of tea with 2–1/2 tea bags. A hopeless task? Perhaps.

But as Arthur Wing Pinero so wisely said, “Where’s there’s tea, there’s hope.”

Another Day of Writing

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

This is another day I don’t feel like writing. I’m tired, my arthritis is acting up, and I don’t want to do anything.

It’s 12° outside, at 10 a.m. I’ve had breakfast and my first cup of tea. I’ve spent 10 minutes ranting and raving about not having any cigarettes — it’s been over a week — and I’ve finally run out of excuses.

So I’m forcing myself to write. It might not be any good, and I might delete it as soon as it’s done, but as the old saying goes, “A writer writes.”

Even when she doesn’t feel like it. Even when she’s only doing it because she’s run out of excuses not to write.

“A writer writes.”

Yes, yes: I’ve read it so many times before. But this time I’ve taken it to heart and actually acted on it.

I started this piece at around 8:30, and I’ve been editing it, rewriting it, massaging it since then.

So here I am, 2 and a half hours into this piece, and I’m finally at peace with it.

Writing is a craft, a discipline, and one that demands constant practice. It’s like an exercise as well, in that the more you do it, the better you get at it.

Today is the day I’m forcing myself to write, despite myself.

Today I can finally call myself a writer.