Could you eat hot sauce all day every day?
That’s exactly what Louisiana-native Leslie Hall does for her job at McIllheny Co. where she works as the Quality Assurance Industrial Specialist for Tabasco sauce. While visiting the Tabasco factory on Avery Island, I caught her dipping a plastic spoon into a giant plastic jar of Tabasco Sauce and then savoring it in her mouth like you would a glass of good wine.
“I like it hot! I’m a Louisiana girl,” she smiled. She better like it — as a food scientist, Leslie tests every batch of Tabasco Sauce four times, checking for all the key Tabasco qualities and searching for any flavor irregularities. She keeps a box of Saltine crackers on hand to cleanse her palate and a nearby freezer is stocked with boxes of miniature ice cream sandwiches to help combat the warm burn on the lips and tongue.
But even after eating hot sauce all day long, Leslie still goes home and cooks with it, “We have young children, so my husband and I season our food after we serve it.”
Tabasco sauce was invented in Avery Island, Louisiana back in 1868, after Edmund McIlhenny experimented with some of the peppers in his garden. The sauce gained popularity among the oyster bars of New Orleans, and soon became synonymous with the Louisiana seafood tradition.
On my visit to Avery Island, I was lucky enough to catch Edmund’s great-grandson Paul McIllhenny, who is now the CEO of McIllehnny Co. As such, Mr. McIlhenny travels a lot — and yes, he always travels with Tabasco sauce. He usually carries the smaller 1/8 oz. travel-size bottles even though the standard 2 oz. bottles are within airline safety requirements.
I asked Mr. McIlhenny if the TSA had ever attempted to confiscate his Tabasco Sauce.
“They’ve only stopped to check me once,” he explains. “But after I showed them my name on the bottle, they let me through.”