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Austin loves the smell of napalm and tortilla chips

Secret ingredient of winningest hot sauce.
Secret ingredient of winningest hot sauce.
Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

     Burning on the outside in triple-digit heat isn’t good enough for Austinites. No, we need to subject our innards to searing heat, too, the likes from which even Smokey would cut and run.

     This past Sunday, Waterloo Park was the site of the 20th Annual Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival, presented in conjunction with the Capital Area Food Bank. Every year the event raises money and collects food items for hungry central Texans, by hosting hundreds of hot sauce entries in three categories: individuals, restaurants, and commercial bottlers. Yes, competitive hot sauce-making for the betterment of one’s community. God bless Texas.

     Apparently, the idea of salsa-induced eyelid sweats is a big hit because the festival draws over 15,000 spectators. This means that more people would rather test their pain threshold and gastrointestinal resilience than live in Bastrop.

     Crafting the perfect hot sauce is a delectable blending of science and art, its secrets passed down from generation to generation, recipes that can only be learned by spirit-walking with the ancient salsa-making Texicans. The road to Hot Sauce Festival glory is paved with tears, frustration and antacid, but for those who persevere, immortality awaits. Well, it may not be that dramatic, but it sure sounds cooler that way.

     In any case, Texans take pride in anything their name goes on, and hot sauce is no exception. There are perennial winners in every category, and if you consider yourself a fan of hot sauce, then do yourself a culinary service and check out the list of all-time winners.

     It’s great that so many local businesses get behind the charitable effort that the festival represents. There are entertainment firms, groceries, car dealerships, and beer and water manufacturers. Pick up on the glaring oversight? How is Borden Milk not in on this action? Next year, let’s get Elsie down to Waterloo Park. She can ride in on a fire truck fitted with a hose that shoots creamy, flame-suppressing milk, extinguishing the blazes in the mouths of overzealous samplers.

     One more thing, if you think that Pace Picante Sauce is the real deal, just stay home and listen to your Donny Osmond records. Really.


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