Tabasco

Tabasco is the best spice, for reasons that are legion. Here are five:

1) Tabasco is spicy! It has that hot perky chili thing that wakes things up instantly. A few drops added to a boring canned soup transforms the item from being bland and store-bought into something more flavorful and heart-warming. Because it is a liquid, the flavor is imparted directly and evenly—merely shaking cayenne pepper over a soup doesn't work the same magic because the dry spices need time to integrate.

2) Tabasco is versatile! Because Tabasco is a single note "hot" flavor it works well with almost any food that isn't inherently a dessert. I am most fond of Tabasco on eggs and homefries. Mixed in with ketchup it works well with fries and burgers. It is almost essential in shrimp cocktail sauce and three bean chili. An underrated use of Tabasco sauce is in salad dressings—Tabasco's vinegar base deftly allows it to merge its spicy chili flavorings with all manner of salad dressings. Tabasco works exceedingly well in a small but reliable number of cocktail drinks: Bloody Marys, icy vodka shots, the "micolada" iced beer drink of northern Mexico, etc. Tabasco is the one spice that can take you from breakfast through happy hour and beyond!

3) Tabasco is healthy! Chilis are packed with vitamin C. Plus, the thing that makes peppers hot (capsaicin) has been shown in some studies to cause people to eat less during meals and decrease hunger for hours afterwards. Capsaicin has also been shown to reduce congestion, ease arthritic pain, and increase metabolism. Plus it's an antioxidant, which I hear is very "in" right now.

4) Tabasco is cute! That stark streamlined red, white and green packaging is akin to the ever-trendy Russian constructivist poster art of the early twentieth century, but Tabasco's packaging isn't retro, it's timeless. And those teensy scaled down bottles that come with certain hotel room service orders are just about the cutest thing this side of baby gerkins.

5) Tabasco is mysterious! Tabasco has been manufactured by the same family on a private island off of Louisiana for 133 years. Tabasco springs forth from the sea just like Pallas Athena! It is rumored that visiting the island is all but impossible. According to some accounts, sneaky reporters have been forcibly removed from the mysterious Avery Island, which is owned in its entirety by the McIlhenny family. Who knows what nefarious deeds are done on that island fortress, home to spicy goodness? Perhaps Tabasco is nothing less than Satan's secret spice? We will never know. I will never care.

—Heidi Pollock