Who Moved my Chili Sauce?

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In my piece from Day 11, entitled, SO LONG, HUY FONG, I lamented the loss of my lifetime- favorite garlic-chili sauce, which might very well have gone extinct due to the manufacturer being unable to procure the tons of Mexican red jalapeno peppers required to stay in business, due to the drought effects brought on by global warming.

There’s not a jar of it left anywhere on the retailers’ shelves around Atlanta, although I’m certain the Asian restaurants throughout the city are stockpiling it at armory-level security.

I just couldn’t believe my Huy Fong was gone. It was literally a “here today, gone tomorrow” scenario.  My old magic trick of standing in front of the store shelf where an item is supposed to be until the item materializes was rendered impotent against Mother Nature’s revenge.

A week after I wrote that piece, I once again stopped by the shelf at the Dekalb Farmers Market where I’d been buying that chili sauce for years – just in case the extinction threat turned out to be a hoax.

The labels where the products once stood had been removed and other products had already filled in the space where they once proudly stood – just exactly how we’re seeing so many of our shorelines being filled in with water. Mother Nature does move in mysterious and metaphorical ways.

Two weeks ago, I was in denial about my Huy Fong being gone and was planning on combing the city in a quest to locate potential straggling jars located throughout.

Then those two mice from the bestselling book, “Who Moved my Cheese?” popped into my head. The storyline went like this:

Since forever, two mice friends had been going to the same spot every night and finding a nice, ample ration of full-fat cheese which sated them until the following night.

One night, they arrived all expectant – as they had been for years – only to find no cheese at the inn!  Can you imagine how flabbergasted, confused, and lost they must have felt?

Over the ensuing days, they returned to that same spot – again and again – never again to find another speck of cheese materialize in that location.

One mouse (probably the male) refused to accept the changed circumstances and held rigidly to the belief that the cheese would come back.

The other mouse (probably the female) tried to talk her friend into coming with her to seek out some new cheesy opportunities which would at least give them a chance at survival but “he” refused, screaming, “You can claw this location out of my cold, dead brain  but I’m staying!”

I always loved that book because of its powerful, yet simple metaphor: When life circumstances change, you gotta change with ‘em.  In this story, it was a choice of change or perish.

I thought about getting a bottle of Frank’s Hot Sauce. That’s the stuff they use on Buffalo chicken wings, or, as I would say because I come from Buffalo: chicken wings. The relationship between chicken wings and Frank’s Hot Sauce is inseparable, like peanut butter and jelly.

I didn’t want my morning eggs and vegetables to be wondering if they were going to be cast aside for chicken wings, so I passed on that idea.

My friend, Diane, understood my dilemma, and so, one day, returned from Sprouts with a bottle of Korean hot sauce which could have been a good substitute, but wasn’t.

I decided to suspend my quest for the perfect chili sauce and try going a few days with none at all. That idea wasn’t going to cut it, either, because there was a major missing of an important flavor profile in too many of my meals.

Yes, something had to be done! New cheese needed to be found. So when I next went to the Dekalb Farmers Market a few days later, I thought, “There’s got to be something else here I can enjoy.” (Notice I didn’t say, “enjoy as much as the Huy Fong”, but just “enjoy”.)

I narrowed down their massive selection to two bottles standing next to each other on the shelf.  Both came from the same manufacturer in New Orleans. “Hmmm,” I reasoned, “New Orleans…they know a thing or two about making toothsome hot sauces.”

And so, my selection process began (with apologies and gratitude to Robert Frost):

Two skinny bottles of hot sauce diverged on a simple wooden shelf

And sorry I could not imbibe in both

And remain within my budget, long I stood

Staring one down as long as I could

To where its long ingredient list made the choice for me

Then took the other, as just as fair

And having perhaps the better claim

Because the ingredient list was simpler

Just like my Huy Fong had so long been

Perhaps they would be similar but not the same

And both that morning equally lay

One back on the shelf, one resting in the body of my cart

If not pleased with it I could try the other another day

Yet knowing how way leads onto way

I doubted if I should ever come back

I shall be telling this with a slap on the thigh

Somewhere epochs and epochs hence

Two skinny bottles of chili sauce sat side-by-side

And I – I chose the one with the fewest ingredients

And its simple-pungent taste has made all the difference

So get out there, People!

Stop wasting time on what’s long gone or what might-have-been.

Go find yourself some new cheese. Or chili sauce. Work you love. A great guy. A great gal. A great adventure on your own.  Whatever you want.

‘Cause you don’t want to be on your deathbed lamenting moldy cheese

And we’re all closer to the end of our lives than we were yesterday.


Earlier today, after sharing a lengthy conversation with a man and his wife at Alon’s,  swapping stories of caregiving, death,

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