The Hot Sauce Incident

Some family stories become famous over the years by being told and retold and they become part of a family’s collective memory.  Over the years the truth of these stories becomes less important than an exciting re-telling.  My kids love hearing these types of stories to the point that when people visit or if we are just hanging out with friends my 7 year old might pull on my sleeve and asks me to make sure and tell the other grown-ups about that time when…

One of the more (in)famous of these stories in our family is the Hot Sauce incident.  This story has become so well liked that the children have started telling it themselves.  In a recent retelling to a houseguest, 5 year old Adrían insisted that he was the child involved so I figured I better set the record straight now before the story departs entirely from reality.

Like many family events, the Hot Sauce Incident took place around the dinner table.  As we were finishing dinner, three year old Adelina was proudly licking her plate clean with her giant toddler tongue.  Yes, licking, there was ketchup involved and she was one of those kids who would mainline ketchup if they could.  When we asked her to refrain from such animal behavior she only grunted in response,

“Sauce, I love sauce.”

“Not Hot Sauce!”  piped up her 5 year old brother, proudly asserting his mature ability to enjoy sprinkled hot sauce over food.

“Sauce!”  Adelina declared, between licks.

“Well, you don’t like hot sauce.” Aurelio kept up.


“It’s hot!  You don’t like it!”

“I love sauce!  All sauce!”  She was getting loud.

“It is possible that she does like it,” I said.  “You’re not the only kid in the world who can deal with hot sauce.”

My son gave me the ‘are you the biggest moron in the world look?’

“Dad – she has never tried it.”

“I have tried it!”  my daughter insisted.  “I love it!  Sauce!”

My son gave a disgusted harrumph.

“Maybe she does like it,” I said.  “If she has never tried it then we don’t really know if she likes it or not.”  My son gave me that look again.

“More sauce!” Adelina pronounced as she put down her shiny clean plate licked clean of any and all streaks of ketchup.  “Sauce!”  She put her hand out toward the bottle of Tabasco still left on the table.  “I love sauce!”

“You want to try it?”


“Has she ever tried hot sauce?”  I asked my wife.  She wasn’t sure.  I wasn’t sure either.  No one was sure except for Adelina who was still insisting that she loved all sauces.

“Well, she may as well try it,” I said.

She held out her plate for hot sauce.

“No way, Adelina, this is not ketchup, you can’t have a lot.”


“It’s spicy, Adelina, really spicy,” I informed her.

“It’s hot Adelina, you’re NOT going to like it,” her older brother insisted.

“I love sauce!”  she said.  I knew she did not like spicy food so I knew now that she was just being silly and slightly out of control and not really listening to what we were telling her.  She was also trying to prove her brother wrong.  I figured, let her try the hot sauce, if nothing else, it’ll teach her a lesson about listening to people tell her something and not being stubborn.

“Should I let her have some hot sauce?”  I asked my wife.  She gave me the more mature version of my son’s look in response as if to say, “Are you really asking me that?”  But there was also a hint of a smile that was enough to allow things to continue.

“OK, Adelina, I’ll give you a tiny bit,” I told her.  I picked up the bottle and shook it and unscrewed the top.  “Why don’t you just stick out your tongue and I’ll put a drop on it?” I said.

“OK,” she agreed.  I turned the bottle sideways and maneuvered it just above her mouth.  I hesitated for effect as now everyone waited to see what was going to happen.  I imagined the shot of flavor that was going to be delivered to Adelina’s brain the instant the drop landed on her tongue.  Patricia stopped rinsing the dishes.  Aurelio stared with his mouth open as wide as Adelina’s.  Even baby Adrian was showing an unusually keen interest.

It was one of those bottles with a very small opening that you have to bang on the back of the bottle with the heel of your hand to get a drop out so that’s what I did.  Only when I banged the back of the bottle things went horribly wrong… A drop of hot sauce flew out off-target and landed right in my girl’s eye.

The instant before Adelina even realized what had happened was an eternity for me.  I wanted to take that drop back so bad but it was too late, I was too late, the deed had been done, and I could only imagine the searing pain that was about to come from contact between hot chili sauce and my daughter’s gelatinous eyeball.  I shouted, Aurelio gasped, Patricia shrieked, and baby Adrian started crying.  For that moment I really thought my daughter might go blind and I dreaded checking her into the emergency room with my feeble account of what had happened.

As bad as things were I feel like it should have been worse.  Although I often leave this part out, I think Adelina must have closed her eye at the last second and repelled most, if not all, of the hot chili sauce that was flung her way.  Adelina never screamed and cried as much as her mother or I did when we saw that drop of chili sauce fly.  After twenty minutes or so of washing with water she was actually totally OK, which still seems pretty amazing.  Like I said, this makes for a less exciting re-telling of the story, but gives me some personal solace that I did not cause any lasting harm to my daughter’s left eye.  Plus, I’m pretty sure this story would not be as entertaining if it ended with my daughter going blind.


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