The thing about... Tabasco

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Indy Lifestyle Online
When your food has no flavour, what do you add? Salt? Pepper? Worcester sauce? Anchovy essence? Mustard? Everybody has a favourite ingredient which gives their cooking that extra something. The two I swear by are sugar and that mid-century symbol of sophistication, Tabasco sauce. I've even dropped it into overbland chocolate dishes.

The thing about Tabasco is not just that it injects fire into those foods that leave the tongue cold, but that it's an all-round style monster. That medicinal glass bottle with its spare, old-fashioned label, missing lid and name reminiscent of Caribbean limbo nights (it's actually made in Los Angeles) adds a decorative touch to shelves. It acts everywhere - hotel bars in Cumbria have it for that annual Bloody Mary, world trippers put it in backpacks, grannies sneak it into gravies, clobbers keep it to bring them back to their senses. It is the essential ingredient nobody discusses.

But it's always had one sales limitation in the northern hemisphere, and that's the wimp factor. While Africans, Chileans, Savannahians and even, bless' em, Australians, happily scatter chillis about, we colder races go pink around the gills and say "gosh, when you said it was hot..." A bottle of Tabasco can last many years in the British kitchen.

But not for much longer. The company have launched a green sauce which, unlike Thai curries, is cooler than the red. Tabasco Jalapeno is comfortingly familiar, coming in the same bottle with an almost identical label, but is mild and juicy enough to be licked from a fingertip. Comments, when it was tested on a group of trusting victims, ranged from "I thought you said it wasn't very hot" through "Damn, that's fine" to "Call that chilli sauce?" It will perk up your Welsh rarebit without offending your mother- in-law. Clear those shelves.