I’m not a chilihead the way some people are. Don’t get me wrong, I probably use more than my share of hot sauce. When my wife and I were dating, she thought my parents’ cooking was too hot. Now she reaches for the Tabasco as readily as anyone.

But I don’t understand the pursuit of the hottest possible peppers and sauces purely for the sake of pain. If it doesn’t add or enhance flavor, what’s the point? It’s a lesson I’ve learned the hard way on a couple of occasions.

My most recent reminder was in a hot sauce shop that had one sauce labeled as extremely hot. I had been in the shop enough to know they probably weren’t kidding. What they label as hot is genuinely hot, and what they rank ahead of that is stuff you need to be careful with. I tried some, of course. I took a corn chip and added a dot about a centimeter in diameter.

Ten minutes later I could feel my lips again. I didn’t want to, given the lingering pain, but I could.

Fifteen minutes later I could say so without sounding intoxicated.

I’m still debating whether to buy it. A couple drops of that in a soup could really work well.

This isn’t my usual meandering through a column. For once, I have a real point. I thought of that incident the other night because of the coronavirus outbreak, of all things.

While wandering through social media, I stumbled across a post with a picture of a sign labeled “Texas Coronavirus Prevention.” I’m not sure whether it’s actual advice put out by officials. It can be hard to tell from a photo sometimes. My native state’s anti-litter slogan is “Don’t Mess with Texas,” after all.

The photo offered good advice, acknowledging the importance of hand washing in preventing the spread of the virus: “Wash you hands like you just got done slicing jalapeños for a batch of nachos and you need to take your contacts out. (That’s like 20 seconds of scrubbing, y’all.)”

A little humor can often drive home the point better than a lecture, and that’s what I like about that sign. It’s not scaremongering. It’s not pressing the panic button. It underscores the message with an example immediately familiar to anyone who has ever had to prepare hot foods and forgotten about it before rubbing their eyes. In Texas that’s probably better than 99 percent of the population.

Humor has a remarkable way of helping people refocus, of getting them to think about things slightly differently and understanding in a new way. It has a way of resetting the scale for events and worries.

That makes it especially important when dealing with genuinely big, scary issues, and the coronavirus definitely fits that category. In this case, the humor is a reminder that, while no one person can stop this virus, we’re not helpless. We can take steps that offer at least some protection, and they really aren’t that different from what we should be doing anyway.

I’m still not sure whether I’ll get that hot sauce. Part of me wants to. Used carefully, it could be a nice addition to the table. I’m just not sure I’ll get the humor of the situation when, inevitably, a little too much goes onto my food.

— Matt Milner can be reached at mmilner@ottumwacourier.com and followed on Twitter @mwmilner

Managing Editor

Matt Milner currently serves as the Courier's Managing Editor. Milner is a trained weather spotter and is usually outside if there are storms. He joined the Courier in 2002.

Recommended for you