Anyone that knows us knows we have the best dog in the whole world. Maya was a rescue that we adopted as a pup from a shelter in San Jose when my daughter was in kindergarten. We had just purchased our first house and finally had a backyard big enough for a dog. We had originally seen her sister on the shelter’s website and wanted to adopt her, but when we got down there to sign the papers (yes, there are actual adoption papers for dogs) we all fell in love with Maya. All that was left to do was to change her name from Pee Wee, although that original name would prove to be prophetic, as you will see later.
I think that Maya is the only dog in the world that doesn’t lick. I suppose this is partially my fault. As most pups are, when she was little she was a licking machine. She would jump up on the bed and start in on my face or hands, and I would tell her, “No lick, no lick,” and sonofagun if it didn’t work. In fact, until my wife mentioned that one of her friends had recently commented on Maya’s non-licking behavior (“Never seen a dog that doesn’t lick, how’d you do it?”), I thought it was just me she didn’t lick. I didn’t even realize that my constant entreaties in her early years had made an impression strong enough to last. I guess if you repeat something 80 gojillion times it’s bound to stick eventually.
So she has learned not to lick; and to sit, stay, walk on a leash without gagging herself and, the most impressive, the “leave it,” which allows us to hold something as tempting as raw meat in front of her nose and say, “Leave it!” and she does. She doesn’t really dig, or bark incessantly at passing cars or blowing leaves, or scratch the bottom of wooden doors to a pulp trying to get out of a room. She does eat the occasional cat turd out of the litter box; and she will polish off the cat’s food if you don’t watch her, as well as anything and everything that drops into her domain, the kitchen floor. But despite all that she was still named “Best Darned Dog on Hooper Avenue” in a completely impartial “competition” (which we organized) on the street where we used to live in Atlanta; and we have the trophy to prove it.
One of her most endearing features is her tiny head. When she was a pup she looked, to the uneducated observer, like a German Shepherd: black and tan in all the right places, same body and head shape, long and slightly bushy tail. But as she got older and grew into her full size (which is about 1/3 of a Shepherd’s) her body got bigger but her head stayed small. She does not look disfigured by any stretch of the imagination, just this medium sized dog with a tiny head. When we would go on vacation and have to board her for a few days at my sister’s, one of her friends would always say, “That dog with the tiny head is here again.”
The tiny head story gained momentum when we lived in New Orleans for a few short, glorious months before Hurrican Katrina blew us to Atlanta. In New Orleans as well as other parts of the South, they have Formosan termites. About 100 times more voracious than your dry-wood variety termite, the Formosan termite can literally eat your house in months. Wood fences, when people are silly enough to build them, must have steel posts and an inch or two of clearance at the bottom so the feisty little devils can’t make the leap. Homeowners must have a termite service contract in effect when they sell, and the house has to be inspected after the sale as well as before. They are serious about their termites in New Orleans and if you had as many 200-year-old wood buildings as they do, you’d be serious too.
So, we closed the purchase of our beautiful little double-shotgun conversion and called the termite service recommended by our real estate agent. “Two Cajuns And A Truck” showed up one morning and started looking at our situation. One of them told me that I “gots to get rid of ’dem foam bodes,” as he looked at the brand new concrete in our driveway. Oh, I get it: the FORM BOARDS, that were used to hold the wet cement when it was poured. He went on to detail how the mighty little Formosans could “start in on ‘dem foam bodes” and work their way to the foundation, the floor joists etc. “Dass’ like frowin’ a crawfish and a beer to you or me”. So at this point Maya, as a dutiful yet late and somewhat ineffective watchdog should, came out on the porch to bark and snarl (all the while wagging her tail) at the interlopers. One of the Cajuns looks at her and says, “Dat dawg got a tiny haid.” We have related that story ever since to anyone who has made the tiny head comment about Maya.
Anyone that knows me knows that I am a wannabe Southerner; more accurately, a wannabe Cajun. I love the place, the food, the music, and the culture of New Orleans. Being a wannabe Cajun, I can blacken a steak or a piece of fish and I make a pretty mean pot of Gumbo, so two years ago I decided to try my hand at making a Cajun “Tabasco-style” hot sauce. I researched the process on the Internet, and found as many recipes and ways to do it as there were people to write the articles. I finally settled on the most basic.
The process is fairly simple: pick the ripe chiles (although picking the thousands of tiny tabascos is like picking jelly beans, and you gotta wait ’til them jalapenos turn bright red, y’all) and pull off the green stems, plunk ‘em in a food processor and make a chopped mash. Put some of the mash into a jar in a layer about two inches thick, sprinkle generously with Kosher salt, and then repeat the process until the jar is full. Seal it up and put it in a dark cabinet to ferment. In a few weeks when you open the jars, you will hear the lovely hiss of the escaping CO2 that was given off during fermentation. Return them to the food processor (they are very soft now and lots of liquid has formed) and process them until smooth. Run the mash through a food mill to remove the seeds, put it in a pan on the stove and add vinegar and more salt until it just tastes good. Bring it to a boil then transfer to sanitized bottles.
I surprised myself by making some pretty damn good sauce, it was slightly thicker than Tabasco or Crystal and a little less vinegary. The paprikas added a smoky dimension while the ripe, red jalapenos gave it heat and the texture. It drew raves from everyone that received bottles that first Christmas, along with requests to make more.
Last year when I produced about 3 cases of five-ounce bottles of my hot sauce, we needed a label, and “Tiny Haid” brand Cajun-style hot sauce was born. I’ll be bottling about 20 cases this year, so look for it in a Christmas stocking near you!