98 degrees in the Shady

Tasha Jakush Issue: Section:

I began weeding fervently as a three-year-old. Just beginning to say tangible sentences and there I was, squatting in the salient sun, searching for imposters in our giant garden. For our entire childhood and well into adolescence, my brother, parents and I would drive an hour to Wisconsin, where roads stretched into oblivion and lakes were scattered appropriately, with wooden mossy diving platforms and ice cream for 50 cents. We grew delicious beef stock tomatoes, green beans, peppers, zucchini, pumpkins, kohlrabi, and I can recount playing devilish games in the cornfields. It was always an escape form city life and suburbia- -the perfect place to take friends for the weekend to climb silos, eat organically, and smoke twigs from the bonfire, pretending they were cigarettes. Once high school came around however, the farm was frequented less. Sports and plays superceded the Climbing Tree and tire swing. And if our parents went without us, we could throw keg parties, weeding out the empty cups and bottles the next morning. There was a loss to our naturalistic spirits but we refused to acknowledge it or didn’t even recognize it. Years later, our parents also and unfortunately began ignoring the soil as their professional lives grabbed the reins.

A few years ago, my brother sought out one of his destinies: to grow his own hot peppers and concoct hot sauce. Somewhere beneath the dried-out, rock-pitted soil breathed our remembered loam. Weekend after weekend, Adam would drive to the farm, uprooting the earth and preparing his plants. Planting was planned for Memorial Day; picking would fall upon Labor Day. That first year he surpassed his goal: Out of 700 pepper plants (about 450 chili plants and 250 habanero) only three died. We were shocked. Clearly all those years of farming had paid off, my brother was a natural! Modifying our father’s old recipe (I must now insert that my father is a chemical engineer and that his soups, slaws, and sauces are indeed epic) he came up with two brilliant types of hot sauce: The Chili; a more vegetable-based, medium-spicy bright orange substance that can be added to just about anything beyond the obvious- -cereal and cookies and such. And then there’s The Habanero- -a ghoulishly green decisively hot body of (again) natural ingredients from our farm. I once saw a girl take a shot of this at a bar (yes my brother has been known to vend his beloved sauces at local pubs) perhaps trying to impress her date, and the expression on her face is locked into my brain for eternity, or for posters of horror flicks.

Shady Dan’s Organic Hot Sauce is known in California, New York, and many states in between. It cannot be found online yet but after Adam says “I Do” later this month his priorities will shift to an official website; picking, slicing, boiling, pasteurizing, and bottling. And the Mrs. helps too.

 

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