Three ingredients

Kentucky Fried Chicken is seasoned with a secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices, assuming that Colonel Sanders didn’t just say that to throw us off the trail. Maybe there are really 10, or 12. Who knows? In any case, it’s a closely-guarded secret.

The formula for Coca-Cola is also a secret, but now the lockbox [supposely] containing it is on display at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta.

There are other food formulae which aren’t necessarily secret – take a look at the ingredient list for many of your favorite food items, and it’s as long as your arm, with a variety of magic chemicals you’ve never heard of. I’m not necessarily knocking them; important advances in preservation, standardization and quality control have been enabled by some of those additives. But you still look at that big long list and wonder what exactly is in there.

That’s why I’m always amazed by Tabasco sauce. This is not, let me hasten to add, any sort of sponsored, solicited or compensated post. I’m just a big fan of Tabasco sauce. You can use it as a hot and spicy condiment, or you can add a little, hardly-noticeable splash to traditional foods, to perk them up without making them hot. Here is the ingredient list for the flagship product:

Distilled vinegar, red pepper, salt

Three ingredients, every one of them recognizable, and at least two of which you have in your pantry at this very moment. And yet, Tabasco is a unique product; there’s no other hot sauce on the shelf quite like it. There are store-brand equivalents in the milder, tangier, Frank’s / Louisiana / Texas Pete hot sauce category, but I’ve never seen a store brand equivalent to Tabasco.

Part of that, I’ve been told, has to do with the soil where they grow the peppers, and the way the sauce is aged. Some folks from my church did volunteer work at the United Methodist Committee on Relief warehouse facility in Louisiana earlier this year, and while they were in the area they took the tour of Avery Island. It’s a tour I’d love to take some day.

Tabasco does have some other hot sauce products with artificial thickeners or what have you, but even those still seem to be relatively simple.  In any case, I just felt like giving a shout-out to the original stuff, proof that the best products are closer to real than fake.