This story begins many moons ago at a little dive bar in Barcelona where my life purpose at the time was defined in simple terms: to sling the strongest Mojitos known to man and have fun doing it.
Barcelona had been my base for a few years, I made ends meet mainly teaching English, and occasionally acting bit-parts in TV commercials. I had just returned after a 2-year stint flogging swampland in Florida for an old friend of mine - but that's another story. Back in Barcelona, skint, I decided to take a bar job while I worked out what to do next, so Ké Bar became my unofficial home for the summer.
Friends would come down to hang out, sink a Molotov Mojito or three, hog the jukebox, and mix with the local drunks, expats and weirdos who frequented the little dive. When there was nobody interesting to chat to I'd stare aimlessly at my surroundings, taking in every detail of the pocket-sized bar. For some reason, my focus was drawn to the little bottles of Tabasco Sauce that adorned each table in the joint and I began to ask myself a profound, philosophical question: "Why always Tabasco?" This query later proved to be the first step on a path that would come to define the next 10 years of my life.
You see, things were different back then. In Europe, the choice of hot sauces was still limited to Tabasco, Tabasco, and - if you were lucky - the occasional bottle of Valentina. During my two years in Florida I'd seen what a real hot sauce culture looked and tasted like, but now back in the Old World I was forced to get my fix from an ersatz substitute. As I looked scathingly at the vinegary vials of Tabasco on each table, I began daydreaming about what its antagonist would look and taste like. My daydream soon became an obsession and there - amidst the blur of that long, rummy summer at Ke Bar - the seed of what would later become #1 Sauce was sewn.
At this point it must be noted that I was an inveterate dreamer: I almost always had some kind of pipedream on the go but rarely did my mental masturbations ever result in anything resembling action. The furthest I'd taken any of my creative whimsies was when me and some mates printed a few tee-shirts, but that project had been dead in the water for a couple of years. Now hot sauce was all I could think about, chewing the ear off anyone who would listen, bombarding all and sundry with my grand vision for a hot sauce to rival Tabasco. One day a pal came by with his wealthy father who, having patiently endured half an hour of hot sauce gibberish, wished me luck and left a 10 euro tip as way of encouragement. My vision began taking on definable features, eating up more mental real estate; friends indulged my machinations, and if they assumed it would come to nought (as per usual) they kept it quiet.
And, of course, they would have been right. At the end of the summer I met a cute Aussie girl and soon the fire that had fuelled my sauce obsession - while not entirely extinguished - was flaming elsewhere. It wasn't until that romance was over and I'd ended up on my arse back in Brighton that I decided it was finally time to do something about that pesky hot sauce dream I'd never fully shaken.
But how? Where?
Mexico seemed like a good place to start.
Part II coming soon.