Tuesday, April 14, 2009

BELIZE: Marie Sharp's Hot Sauce

These are our current hot sauce lineup at the moment. On the far left, Mezzetta. We love it, Jason and Jessica love it. You can find it at the grocery store. It tastes like Taco Bell/Del Taco hot sauce, but "proper." It has a similar flavor, but the right amount of heat. Next is Nando's from South Africa. I love peri peri sauce. Wes and Heather have this amazing peri peri sauce, but they can't remember where it's from. I found this at the hot sauce shack. It's not even close. And I've been to Nando's in South Africa. It's a chicken chain. It's really good, but this isn't how I remembered it. Dawn's Grill n Go. We bought this from a street vendor in Belize. Apparently it's the only place you can get it. Very sophisticated design considering that it came from a cart on the beach. Not bad, but not great. The last five on the right are all MARIE SHARP'S! WINNER! We don't really need five bottles, though, because they all kind of taste the same. Tania reminded me of the Simpson's episode where they went to the Duff's brewery and Duff's Lite, and Duff's Ice, etc., all came out of different taps that were connected to the same vat. Yeah, that's kind of how Marie Sharp's is. Except on the far right: the green one is made with a prickly pear base (most that have tried it have found it spicier than any of the others), and the green label to its left is more mild. They're all carrot and habanero based, but the green label one is especially carroty. And slightly milder than the rest.

Before we left for Belize, Tania learned that the official hot sauce of Belize is Marie Sharp’s. I had had Mrs. Sharp’s before. “Oh that’s that shit I had at that breakfast place in San Diego.” I have a strange memory. I can’t remember what Tania told me the night before, but I can remember some random hot sauce I had at a hotel diner one morning three years ago. This would probably be an instance where the ladies can say, “Men are from Mars…”

At the beginning of this story, I started shooting photos of just about everything that came in front of me. Typical college art fag photography project. I think I was hungover. And delusional. And I like Gary Winogrand. But this is the first photo of the day. This is what Beckett looks like when I leave, "Goodbye… Papa…"

This is the meat market at the Farmer's Market. I've seen Anthony Kidas there before (that dude is TINY!). Does it make any sense to write the word "tiny" in all caps? I wish there was low, lower case. Oh there is! "That dude was tiny!"

Before we left, we visited the Farmer’s Market to get some Marie Sharp's at the hot sauce shack. I’m assuming that because the hot sauce “industry” is so popular these days, you have one of these in your town somewhere? Ours is a hut across from the bar in the middle of the Farmer’s Market on Third and Fairfax. It is a magical place. But it’s kind of like a strip club, in that Tania frowns at me for visiting it. Our fridge door is filled with hot sauces and mustards. Me and hot sauce are like women and shoes. I can’t go into our hot sauce emporium without buying half a dozen bottles and bringing them home. “You have to finish the ones you have before you buy any more,” she scolds me… at least I don’t bring anything home from the strip club! WOKKA WOKKA!

I played amateur street photographer at the Farmer's Market. This photo is actually taken at the adjacent "The Grove." It's a Vegas-like mall. So I guess that makes me an "amateur fake-street photographer?" How many baby strollers do you count in this photo?

Marie Sharp’s is a great hot sauce. It is on every table in Belize. I put it on everything. I haven’t enjoyed a hot sauce this much in a long time. It’s hot, but not too hot, and like any good hot sauce, it has flavor. It’s carrot based, actually. Sounds stupid, I know, but to me the flavor is “normal.” This is what hot sauce should taste like. We ate it everywhere in Belize and of course we brought a shit-ton back for our friends. Unfortunately we didn’t bring enough back because our special ace-in-the-hole hot sauce gift got yanked from us at the airport.

I wasn't thinking when I shot this photo, but now that I look at it, I think they're strolling a little too close together. And when your pants can't hold your shirt, or your ass, is there really any point in wearing a pair of running shoes? Silver running shoes?

At the Belize airport, where Jet’s Bar is, there’s a dozen stores selling Marie Sharp’s hot sauces, “Can You Belize It?” t-shirts, and rum. That’s what you get in Belize: hot sauce, stupid shirts, and rum. But one of the stalls had a very peculiar looking hot sauce. The ominous red sauce was packaged in a small, recycled water bottle with no label. There was a label on it, but it had obviously been sitting in a cooler full of water so long that all the ink had washed away. On one label, I could make out the faint impression of a jaguar. It was SO ghetto, it equaled GOOD. The lady at the counter told Tania, “This is what I use.” So Tania bought three bottles of it ($8 ea/US). One for us, and one each for our friends Wes and Doug; both of whom have a tendency to purchase equally sketchy food and drink products south of the border and bring them back to us. “Here! This might make you sick!” “RAD!”

But we never got to taste it.

Just cruising around the Farmer's Market grabbin' a handful of my own ass. Maybe he has to poop?

The short story is, TSA sucks so bad. Or maybe it was our airlines? Either way, everyone that bought something at the Belize airport, and carried it on the plane—which we were not only allowed, but encouraged to do—lost their shit when we landed in Dallas to change planes. Landed, went through customs, got our baggage, then rechecked our baggage on some random belt that was outside of customs—and that is where we should have put our hot sauce in our bags, but no one said anything. Plus we had landed very late and were thinking more about making our connection. So as we “reentered” the airport, we had to go through security again, and of course you’re not allowed to carry liquids on a plane. “But we just flew on a plane with this?” Nope. We could carry it on that plane, but not this plane? Totally makes sense. So we had to throw it away. As did everyone else on our flight who bought any kind of liquid gifts. So much rum got thrown away. It seemed like everyone was carrying a three-bottle caddy of rum. What a racket. Those TSA cocksuckers came up on so much shit that night. “You can go back to the airline counter and check it with your bag?” Oh, fuck you, asshole. It was after midnight and all the ticket counters were closed. He knew damn well we couldn’t check shit and we were about to miss our connection as it was. Fuckers. The terrorists win when you can’t carry a duty-free bottle of hot sauce, or a bottle of rum, on a plane. Then again, maybe I could have taken over a plane with that shit? It looked really spicy…

This fucked up our hot sauce gift plans. I had to go back to the hot sauce shack at the Farmer’s Market to get some more Marie Sharp’s to make up for the loss of the ghetto-hot, water-bottle shit we lost to TSA. I reluctantly said I’d go do it. I even pretended like I was bummed to have to drive all the way to Hollywood to visit the hot sauce shack. “Well, okay, I guess I could go to the hot sauce shack today… sigh…"

This is the hot sauce shack at the Farmer's Market. Half of it. Look at all that hot sauce. Wow. (Use your Huell Howser voice there.) With frat boys chuggin' Bud Lite. You go buddy.

I didn’t dilly-dally. When I got to the hot sauce shack, I went straight to the Marie Sharp’s corner. “Ah, Mrs. Sharp’s, which flavor should I buy?” For some reason I think that Aunt Jemima is Marie Sharp’s. Little bottle of syrup mixing up the hot sauce. By day she’s a sweet little bottle of syrup, but by night, she’s a spicy Latin dominatrix named Marie. “MISS SHARP’S TO YOU!” [whip crack] “Yesmaamsorrymaam.”

After I bought my hot sauce, I retired to the bar and ordered a beer. I like the bar at the Farmer's Market. For one, the bartenders are always very friendly. Lots of local characters lurking about as well. And the TV is on all the time. On the day I was there, they were watching Quincy M.E.. I remember Oscar Madison, but I've never heard of Quincy M.E.. The episode I watched was about a Botchulism outbreak at the Rose Bowl. I marveled at how that script got green lighted.

The controller to the TV was owned by this fella. He hated commercials. Whenever a commercial came on, he muted the TV. I was fine with that, but the dude was like 100 years old and would forget that he was watching TV so when the commercials were over he wouldn't put the sound on and I'd have to tap him... "Hey? TV?" I loved him. I tried talking to him, but if you look at that mouth, you'll understand why I couldn't understand a word he said. Side note: check out Penny Wise behind him. "What should I wear to the Farmer's Market today? MONEY SHIRT!"

I took my pile of Marie Sharp’s to the counter at the hot sauce shack, “Can I put this down here?” I wanted to shop a little bit more.

As far as I can tell, the hot sauce shack is run by a Korean husband-and-wife team. A mean old Korean husband-and-wife team. And a grandma. Mean, old Korean grandma. I’ve only been a few times, but they are very grouchy.

“Sure,” she said. Warmly even.

She seemed to be in a good mood, so I decided to take the risk. “What are you feeling these days?” I asked. “What do you like?” The place isn’t that big, but when you consider that it’s filled with tiny little bottles of hot sauce—most less than five ounces—it’s absolutely enormous. But past visits had shown me that this lady seemed to know about the contents of every bottle on her shelves.

She smiled at me and ducked under her counter. When she came up, she was holding a half-full bottle of Marie Sharp’s—her personal bottle of Marie Sharp’s. She slammed it on the counter next to my pile and smiled again. "You're done shopping," she seemed to say.

10 comments:

Josh said...

The official hot sauce of Costa Rica is called Lizano. It's greenish brown and tastes kinda smoky. Like Marie's it's everywhere on everything. Worth finding. http://www.hotsauceworld.com/lisamaofvean.html

Anonymous said...

http://www.belizemagazine.com/edition04/photo/e04_mariesharp04.jpg

nice

Baker Baker 1-9 said...

Awesome post Dave. I totally know what it's like to have a door of hot sauces and mustards (and BBQ sauces).

RyGar said...

For the past few years I have just kept a bottle of Tapatio for taste and anything neon green/habanero based for heat. We call it Green Death. Usually it's El Yucateo brand, but it burns like a mother, so I'm not sure I can taste all that much difference between labels. I'm moving closer to that Farmer's Market, though, and I like the sound of "hot-sauce shack."

adam g said...

One word: Cholula

tania said...

that marie sharp picture is tits.


and the one word i use for cholula is: BULLSHIT.

C&H said...

I haven't found this shit in America yet, but it's the best there is: http://carolinasauce.stores.yahoo.net/170001-1062204842.html

Once, while eating tacos with my wife and a friend, the friend mistook the Matouk's hot sauce for salsa. After liberally pouring a FAT line of it on his taco, he took a big ass bite. "Yeah, it was hot, but I didn't want to look like a pussy," he said. I'm told he shit large quantities of blood the following morning.

Bozo Monkey Bear III said...

what do you mean you can't find it? you can buy it at the bottom of that link you sent, it's $4.95 ding dong.

gbrl said...

dude, i totally taped an episode of quincy m.e. about how mosh pitting and dope kills really cheesy punk rockers.

Anonymous said...

Dawn's grill and go is amazing! Something is wrong with your taste buds or maybe you just aren't trying it on the right foods. Although I got some less than 2 weeks ago I'm almost out!