On this International Women's Day, I'd like to issue a controversial opinion: Women are superior sauce makers.
Think about it. Historically, women have born the responsibility for the preparation of food, and management of larders for their families and communities. If a pound of rice needs to feed a family of 5 for a week, it's historically a woman's responsibility to figure that one out. If there's a finicky kid at the table, it's traditionally been mom's job to keep them alive. And, back in the day, if a family fell upon good fortune, women benefited only at the discretion of their husbands and fathers. If you weren't born a princess, you're making do with what you have.
Wouldn't it make sense that women have developed a skill for cooking resourcefully, pleasing picky eaters, and writing secret poetry with flavors and textures? Enter, sauce.
I never considered sauce making a feminist act until recently, when I thought about some of the women in the sauce world who have inspired and directly supported my own journey. They are innovators, connectors, leaders, and responsible for some of the sauciest products of this moment.
Nikki Guerrero is the woman behind Hot Mama Salsa, and a role model to many. All of her products are ingredient-driven, farmer sourced, and inspired by traditional Mexican salsas and chili oils. Not only does she run the essential service of selling seasonal salsas, at multiple farmer's markets in Portland, or servicing local markets with her popular salsas and addictive tortilla chips, and inspiring cooks with her dishes on instagram, she also runs a commissary kitchen that services several small businesses, including mine.
Sarah Marshall, another ingredient-driven saucier, has built the venerable Marshall's Haute Sauce on her own terms, an anomaly in this era of scale-at-any-cost capitalism. She and her husband Dirk cultivate relationships with the farmers that grow their ingredients, she conjures up incredible collaborations with other local businesses, she writes, she's great in front of a camera or podcast mic, and not least, she is an expert community builder. Less than six months after I launched Bobbie's Boat Sauce, Sarah hosted a local hot sauce-maker's gathering at her home, asking everyone to bring a dish made with someone else's sauce. It was an indelibly uplifting experience for someone new to this business. Who does that!? Sarah Marshall does that.
Jessica Causey is the creator of La Porteña Chimichurri. I am not exaggerating when I say that both her Green and Spicy Red chimichurri, based on family recipes, are paradigm shifting. I can and have eaten most of a container on its own. Jessica and I got started around the same time, so we have been confidents, cheerleaders, and commiserators to each other all the way. When you are running a business by yourself, sometimes there is nothing more invaluable than just talking to someone who is right there with you. Right now you can only find La Porteña in Portland stores and farmer's markets, but after winning $10,000 grant and a place as the inaugural participant in a Latino accelerator program sponsored by Brazi Bites, I'm guessing you'll be seeing more from Jessica.
Finally, there's Stacy Moritz, the "owner and sometimes fearless leader" of Secret Aardvark Trading Co. Honestly I could not guess what constitutes "sometimes" since Stacy is one of the most outgoing, brave, and never-not fearless women I have met in the food and beverage space. Oh, and let's add generous, innovative, supportive, and successful. There's a good chance you have a bottle of Secret Aardvark Hot Sauce in your fridge now, and if you don't, you should. It's f*cking delicious!
Bobbie's Boat Sauce wouldn't be what it is without Stacy's trailblazing, Jessica's camaraderie, Sarah's vision and values, and Nikki's wisdom. These are just four women who I happen to know, in a space that I happen to be in. I'm so lucky to be in community with them, and to making our sauces side by side.