Hot Sauce and the Gift Economy

Hot sauce made my morning.

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In truth, you could top a Blue Oven English Muffin with cat litter and it would still taste good. But our breakfast, Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms topped with egg, inspired by a Joy the Baker recipe, benefited from a few key ingredients from our store, namely Syrian Mix, horseradish from Gene Goldschmidt (the Findlay Market Mustard King), and the aforementioned Tropical Chili Hot and Honey Hot Sauce.

English Muffins grace our table every Sunday morning thanks to a terrific bartering arrangement we have going at the market. One of our regular customers trades us the muffins (which I know he waits in a crazy line for) for a handful of cashews,  assuming, I’m sure, that the staff, not want to ingest 1200 calories in one sitting, will be inclined to share them.

Oh contraire. Seeing as how all day is spent grazing on various treats and taste-tests, the muffins are left on the counter at the end of the night. I casually grab them as I’m locking up the store, like “oh shucks, those silly staff people forgot to  take these home”, already planning my Sunday brunch. It’s a terrific system, really.

We humans tend to like symbols. Food means home, money means power. An economy, any economy, is simply a trading of symbols. I spent a lot of years as an activist trying to devise a perfect system, one that works on a large scale, that values people over profit. Now, as a business owner, I have to think about profit. It is how I feed my family, and how my staff feeds theirs.

This particular trade isn’t the only one that happens on a Saturday, or any day really. We trade sesame sticks for fresh honey candy, eggs for pumpkins, spices for homemade wine. Bartering is one of my favorite things about our store, and one of the many ways The Market is a break from commerce as usual.

A lot of times, the numbers of these trades and exchange don’t add up (though I’m not entirely sure, because looking at them gives me a mild panic attack). But in a gift economy, a sharing economy, a relationship economy, they don’t always need to.

At the end of the day, if our bellies are full, what does it matter how the got that way?

Brussels Sprouts and Mushroom Hash over English Muffin

Adapted from Joy the Baker

1 shallot, chopped

1 pint baby portobello mushrooms, sliced

4 cups shredded Brussels Sprouts

Garlic powder

Salt

Olive oil

Syrian mix

2 eggs

2 English muffins

Tropical Chili Hot and Honey hot sauce

1 tsp Gene Goldschmidt horseradish

2 tbsp mayo

Sautee shallot in olive oil until soft and translucent. Add Mushrooms and sautee until they are brown and release their water, about 4 minutes. Add Brussels sprouts and cook until tender. Season with garlic powder and Syrian mix.

In another pan, cook eggs over easy.  Season with salt and Syrian.

Toast English muffins. Mix horseradish and mayo. Assemble open faced sandwiches by first smearing the horsey sauce on to the muffin, topping with the Brussels sprout hash, and finishing with the egg and hot sauce.

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