Kitchen Garden

Meditation on Hot Sauce

Juan San Miguel’s Hot Sauce Recipe

After planting garlic last week I made hot sauce using leftover seeds: Jalapeno and Serrano peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, apple cider vinegar and salt.

The recipe evolved over time from one Juan San Miguel explained in 1977 when we both garrisoned in Mainz, Germany. Those were days before a four-foot section of assorted hot sauces became standard in supermarkets.

I lost contact with him yet the recipe persists. It is a rare day when there is no hot sauce in the ice box.

We carried the condiment in plastic milk jugs and put it on our army rations while on maneuvers in the Fulda Gap. It made our eyes water and changed regular food into edible fire. We laughed a lot in that peace-time army… and ate sandwiches of bread and hot sauce. I continue to make it mostly the way Juan taught me.

What role does tradition play in our lives? It is significant.

Who wants a life weighed down with endless traditions? I made hot sauce this year after planting garlic. Once is enough. There is little need to make it an annual tradition. If we eschew spontaneity in favor of pursuit of tradition we are the less for it.

I enjoy remembering days of subzero ambient temperatures inside tracked vehicles traversing central Germany and eating hot sauce. Juan’s wife made more than we could use on an operation, although as we returned to garrison some sought to use it up.

Obsession with tradition and it’s traveling partner ritual is not good. Like anything, a little goes a long way. If I could live without hot sauce, why would I want to?

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