A Collection By Any Other Name
By Ken Alexander, It’s a Fiery World
“I collect Hot Sauce!” I hear this all the time and see evidence of different versions and illustrations of hot sauce collections on Facebook, Pinterest, etc. To personalize the observation, I love to tell people that my hobby…no…my passion, is collecting and blogging about hot sauce, spicy food, and the community surrounding the Chilehead industry. So what is a collection, really?
To some, a collection isn’t a collection unless they have shelves full of wax-covered bottles, signed and unopened. They proudly display their spicy treasures in display cases, shelves, etc. and wouldn’t dare dream of opening any one of them for fear of devaluing their worth. They look up to and envy the likes of my good friend and buddy, Vic Clinco, who boasts the largest privately owned collection of hot sauce in the world, pushing towards 8,000 individual, discrete products. What a testimony to spicy and cool! A collection so large, so unique, so over-the-top that it’s been featured on national television and is world renowned. If you haven’t seen pictures, just search Google Images for it and see what pops up.
To some people, their collection of sauces, powders, rubs, etc. is simply the products they can buy at Wal-Mart. It’s the Tabasco, Frank’s, El Yucateco, Valentina, Pickapeppa, Tiger Sauce, Crystal, and Louisiana sauce that adorns their spice cabinet, counter, or refrigerator shelf. Each one has been opened and lovingly explored. Some have very little missing, others still contain 97 percent of their original volume, but that’s the collection. There are those that would turn their noses up at such a motley crew of cheap, “ordinary” hot sauces. Yet to the owner, it may be all they know, or all they can afford, and they are proud, because it represents that side of them that loves spice, flavor, and heat. They are the ones that will stumble across and reach out to the various groups on social media, asking to be included, yearning to learn and connect, to share the passion that we all have for all things pepper related. Hungry to learn, asking about this and that, appreciative when someone knowledgeable takes time to explain, teach, or share. If we look at ourselves, we all started there at some point in time.
For me, my “collection” can be described as multi-purpose. I have a small shelf at home and at work of sauces that are special to me in some way, either by their purpose, their reputation (think The Source), or by sentiment (a bottle of Louisiana sauce my dad gave to me before he died). The shelf at work are sauces that were given to me by people thoughtful enough to appreciate my spicy obsession and bring me something they thought I would appreciate. Except for those 2 small shelves, I have what I describe as a “working” collection. Mostly sauces I’ve purchased, along with some given to me to review, preview, or give feedback on, and I use them daily. I’m proud of that description of a “working collection”. To me, it shows how much I value the sauce and the maker, and how much I truly love to sweat when I eat!
So, at the end of the day, a collection is in the eye of the beholder- whether it’s 8,000 bottles strong and growing, or 10 sauces easily obtained, living in a cabinet, and used daily. Both are to be equally appreciated and respected! Why, you ask? Because, Ladies and Gentlemen…..it’s a Fiery World!