A lot of non-Latinos assume we all love spicy food and are born with chilis in our mouth, and well, that’s not true. For some of us, our cuisine is more centered around fried corns and flour with cheese, leaving us having to learn the ways of spicy food the hard way. But, for me, the journey was delicious.
My parents are from Colombia and Ecuador, two countries not typically known to have super spicy dishes.
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Not at all.
Growing up, we didn’t have hot sauce bottles in the house. We mostly had garlic. A lot of it.
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As a Miami girl that ate a lot of Cuban food, I can tell you that Cuban food doesn’t have much spice either.
Typical meals included a lot of rice, arepas, platanos, potatoes and grains.
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A lot of their dishes tend to be carb-heavy.
My idea of adding zest to meals was piling on the CHEESE.
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But I definitely had a thing for green peppers and cilantro.
When I first had Mexican, Indian or other spicy food, I generally stayed away from the salsas, assuming they’d be too hot.
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(They usually were.)
People would meet my dislike for spicy food with, “But aren’t you Latina?”
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I know, I know. I’m supposed to be super spicy and crafted out of jalapeños. Sorry to disappoint!
In high school, I started exploring Tabasco and Sriracha along with my friends…
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I became all about hot wings, and thought, “This isn’t bad!”
And then, I met Cholula and Tapatío.
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It was just perfect for my unaccustomed taste buds.
I became that person that carries hot sauce with them everywhere.
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On my next trips to South America, I always had to ask for hot sauce.
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…Which was usually sitting on some forgotten table, looking untouched for at least two years.
But the ají was usually jus cilantro, garlic and lime.
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Although, that little aji for empanadas DID have a kick.
My family found it very important to tell everyone, “she puts hot sauce on everything!”
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She was so proud.
However, I do recognize my limits…
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Like when my doctor said I should actually cut back, so… I stocked up on the Tums.
And although I still love the food I traditionally grew up with…
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Nothing beats it.
A little drop of salsita doesn’t hurt, right?
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