My Husband Puts Hot Sauce on Everything – and I Think It’s Fantastic

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There’s one condiment you’re sure to find on my dinner table: Lee Kum Kee’s Chinese-style hot sauce.

In fact, it’s not just one but two sauces you’ll notice sitting next to our bowls and dishes. One is the extra-spicy fragrant hot sauce, heavy with chili oil and the pungent smell of chili, and the other a milder garlic chili sauce perfect for noodles and hot pot.

At any given meal, you’ll see my husband add dabs of hot sauce to his rice or soup or even noodles. You’ll also hear him utter a delighted “mmmmmm” every time the peppery flavors dance across his tongue. After all, he once confessed that while he could happily go without meat, the same couldn’t be said for hot sauce.

Meanwhile, he’s married to me, a woman who can’t even remember the last time she tasted anything remotely spicy. A woman who was forced to quit even the mildest peppers last year after having her appendix removed. It’s been over a year since that surgery, but I still haven’t found the courage to test my stomach with hot sauce. Not yet. I eye my husband’s favorite condiments with a mixture of curiosity and fear, and for now prefer to have only garlic, ginger, sea salt and soy sauce as my flavorings of choice.

But I’m happy with this arrangement. I’m grateful that my husband’s deepest longings for spicy food are satisfied with these two simple condiments. I’m glad that what could have been a great disagreement about what to eat has now become a moot point, thanks to the presence of two small bottles courtesy of Lee Kum Kee.

Jun was born with a penchant for hot peppers. My husband grew up in a region of Zhejiang known for its more fiery flavors. Milder than Sichuan and Hunan, his hometown dishes up a delicious “fragrant and spicy” regional cuisine. That meant home cooking where nearly every dish – save a few greens and picked vegetables – had a touch of fire, sometimes stronger than you might expect. In fact, his family loved hot peppers so much that his father would even dab his favorite hot sauce into his rice during meals.

(Little did I know, when I first witnessed his father doing this, I would one day watch my husband do the very same thing.)

Meanwhile, I was raised on an average white middle-class diet of American staples – from spaghetti to hamburgers to fried chicken. Though we flirted with hot peppers from time to time, they were mostly absent from our meals. Dinner didn’t need them to be dinner. And some of us, notably my grandmother, wanted nothing to do with them. For her, even some varieties of black pepper were too spicy.

Who would have thought I’d now have hot sauce on my dinner table?

An American friend of mine once wondered if my husband wasn’t “ruining” dinner by putting hot sauce on every single dish. She argued that the hot sauce overpowered the more subtle flavors in every meal. I’m sure she would have thought it sacrilege if I had mentioned to her that Jun even loved hot sauce with his spaghetti.

But I say, who are we to judge his dining preferences? So what if he puts hot sauce on everything at the table? It brings him an immeasurable sense of happiness, and it doesn’t impact my meal in any way. It also means no arguments about whether or not to add hot peppers to the meal.

I’d like to think that our mutual respect regarding cravings has enhanced our marriage in so many ways. It’s how we, a vegan and a guy who has called himself “80 percent vegan” (but still loves his pork and beef and fish), have managed to happily dine together for so many years.

Which is why I’m certain my husband won’t object when I suggest buying a little vegan cheese to satisfy my own deepest cravings – cravings he will never understand either.

I figure we’re even now. 😉

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8 Replies to “My Husband Puts Hot Sauce on Everything – and I Think It’s Fantastic”

  1. I certainly understand Jocelyn’s dilemma with “hot sauce”. I will never forget the one time that on a business trip to Albuquerque New Mexico, our local host wanted to show his hospitality and took our group to GENUINE Mexican dinner in Old Town district. Throughout the whole meal I was so hungry yet couldn’t partake in the super spicy (from my stand point) cuisine. I had to be satisfied with bread and ice cream dessert!!!
    Since my wife is of German heritage she occasionally longs for sauerkraut and Tartar steak (raw ground beef) which I just don’t care for. Like Jocelyn and Jun, we just politely agree to disagree when it comes to certain kinds of food that the other party would prefer to decline.

    1. Dan, thank you for sharing! That must have been one torturous dinner! I would have starved myself…good thing there was at least bread and ice cream!

      And good that you and your wife agree to disagree about food. 🙂

  2. I grew up with a bland diet similar to yours, Jocelyn. Baked chicken with no seasoning. Baked potato. So boring. Then I moved out and moved to Los Angeles – where the Mexican food is spicy and the wasabi will clear your sinuses. I realized just how much I’d been missing and dove into the local cuisines.

    The first time my future husband made spicy Thai tofu, he told me he’d put in too much red paste and even he couldn’t eat it. (Words that I’d never heard before and have never heard since.) I couldn’t bear to watch that gorgeous, home- cooked meal go to waste, especially since I lived on cheap take out and cheap instant food at the time. So I scarfed down a whole bowl, and even though there were tears running down my face and I couldn’t feel my lips after the third bite, it was sooooo good.

    It’s still my favorite meal and I ask Andy for it every week.

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