Tom of the Fog I have to ask, as someone who spent time in America but is not American, what’s the fascination with hot sauce?
As an American, I also find it kind of strange. My dad was a big hot sauce guy. Whenever we happened upon some speciality hot sauce store (this has happened three times) he’d insist we have to go in, then he’d talk with the salesman working there for half an hour.
The first time this happened my dad mentioned some hot sauce brand that “his college buddies” all deemed the hottest in the world (my dad was only in college for a year, so I was surprised to hear he has college buddies). The hot sauce store guy looked at my dad like he was some country bumpkin and replied that hot sauce technology has made leaps in bounds in the past twenty years. “If you want to try where we’re at in the 21st century, I can give you a taste.” He then brought my dad over to one of the shelves, pulled out a sample bottle that I suppose must have had some really high Scoville rating, and let a single drop of it drip onto a Q-tip, then handed it over to my dad to put on his tongue. My dad tried it. The salesman asked what he thought. “It’s pretty hot” my dad said.
After wasting 30 minutes of this guy’s time, we left without buying anything.
If I had to come up with a serious reason for the hot sauce fascination, maybe it’s just that a lot of common American foods don’t have that much flavor, so there’s lots of condiment usage going on? Hot sauce is the condiment that lends itself best to personalization, so it’s the one that gets talked about. Ketchups and mayonnaises are all pretty much the same (as far as the average American is concerned). I guess there are a lot of different kinds of mustards though. Are there any big mustard guys out there?
My own less charitable take is that hot sauce is has the highest manliness to effort ratio of any cooking technique, so masculine guys like to associate themselves with it.
Related: a few years ago, Tim Rogers wrote about hot sauce being the most boring conversation topic he’s ever heard. Check it out if you’re curious.