History of a Hot Sauce: The mysterious Origins of Wassabassco

by R. Andrew Heidel and William Morton

  • 5 Pages

Our recipe, and Kiki’s lineage, begins in Japan during the waning years of the Edo era when the Tokugawa Shogunate commissioned the Sushi Sensei to discover a wasabi hot enough for the emperor himself. After many years on his dangerous quest, the Sushi Sensei discovered a pure strain of Wasabia Japonica, growing in a fresh glacier fed stream on the perilous slopes of Mount Fuji. This was a wasabi more pungent and fitfully stronger than any yet tasted. When the Sushi Sensei returned he presented the wasabi to the emperor along with the choicest bit of sashimi Fugu (the deadly puffer fish). Upon tasting the delicacy, the emperor convulsed violently, fell out of his chair, and appeared dead to those about him. The Sushi Sensei was held at samurai sword point as the guards were convinced the emperor had been poisoned by the potentially deadly bit of the Fugu. However, this was not the case. The emperor regained consciousness after a few moments and exclaimed he had been granted a vision thanks to the potent wasabi. His vision depicted a beautiful woman wearing a strange red hat and a tiny green kimono. She carried with her a potent elixir that blissfully scorched the palette of gods and mortals alike. The emperor was pleased and bestowed the sensei with many honors and rewards. Thereafter the secret location of the Emperor’s Wasabia Japonica was passed down from generation to generation, and would eventually pass into the hands of the Sushi Sensei’s last remaining descendant, Kiki LeVeau.

But the story of the LeVeau family began at the turn of the 20th century in Wasabass, Colorado, when Silas Heidle, the 12-year-old orphaned son of a small town dressmaker, met “Colonel” Buford LeVeau, a traveling snake oil salesman who came to town. The Colonel introduced Wasabass to the exotic condiment “mustard,” a delectably spicy concoction the colonel claimed came from a mystical island called “Coney” located in a faraway land called Breukelyn, somewhere beyond New York. Tired of bland midwestern cooking, and entranced by the salesman’s tales of unknown taste sensations and the ports of New York. Silas’s destiny was sealed and he resolved to leave Wasabass for a future ripe with adventure and flavor. After much pleading and deliberation, the Colonel allowed the boy to join him when he left, and Silas took on the surname of LeVeau from his newly adopted father.

After a year of traveling the country, Silas and the Colonel finally made their way to New York. Upon arriving in New York City, Silas LeVeau was forced to earn his own keep, and the Colonel introduced him to the manager of a bawdy vaudeville theater in NYC where young Master LeVeau started working as a corset wrangler. For the majority of his waking hours Silas worked hard and long, and in the process learned from the great performers, comics, magicians and barkers, and mastered his own skills in the vaudeville arts. In the scant hours that were his own, Silas haunted the waterfront docks and dry good stores searching for exotic spices. It was during this time that he met a burlesque dancer named Bella, The Belle of Brooklyn. Bella was a rising star whose renown and loving support prompted Silas to strike out with his own show. Silas formed the Wasabass Company of Burlesque and Vaudeville Players, in tribute to his hometown and set off to travel around the country. While on tour, Silas and Bella performed and sang together on stage, and produced a son off stage, young William LeVeau.

The Wasabass Company proved a great success, traveling the circuit from Boston to Bangor, Detroit to Denver, Spokane to Saskatchewan, and Los Angeles to Los Alamos. But it was in the small Mexican pueblo of Kikteil, whiling away time on the road between venues, that Silas Leveau entered into the poker game of his life. He had heard rumor upon arriving that this town was the refuge of the infamous Loco Chili Banditos of the Yucatan Peninsula-men of such daring do and machismo that they lived on the envious federales’ most wanted list for decades. It was during the last game of the night where the stakes were high, and Silas had all but mortgaged his new bride and young son, that Silas produced a straight flush and won from the Chili Banditos their greatest treasure, seeds of the fabled Habanera Diablo-the hottest chili pepper known to man with properties said to purify the righteous and damn the wicked to a tormented tongue.

Shortly after the game (and a friendly toast of the local elixir, Tequila) the federales arrived, guns-a-blazing. The Bandito chief, unwilling to risk the safety of his young daughter Rosalita, entrusted her care to his new friend Silas before cutting a swath through the federales to safety and obscurity in all but the most arcane histories. After this encounter, and wishing to give both his son and young Rosalita a stable home, Silas wrapped up his traveling show and brought it to Brooklyn, where he started his own burlesque theater to rival the lower east side and Harlem renaissance.

Now it wasn’t long before Rosalita (Rosie) and William grew up, and reaching an age when young people tend to fall in love and get married, that they did so. Unfortunately World War II broke out and William was called up shortly after they consummated their marriage. While William went to war Rosie’s belly grew and in time she gave birth to their son, Manuel. Wanting to do her part for the war effort, Rosie took a job as a riveter at the Brooklyn Navy yard while Bella watched Manuel. On D-Day William joined the allied invasion forces that stormed the beaches at Normandy. Performing valiantly, William saved countless lives by single handedly taking out a gun turret, armed only with a slingshot fashioned from Rosie’s garter from their wedding night and his father’s lucky 50 cent piece. But William was killed in the resulting explosion, and died a hero. Silas took the news of his son’s death hard, losing interest in the theater until it to had to be shut down.

With a working mother and without a father, Manuel grew up a precocious child, wary of authority and government and was ripe for the cultural revolution of the 60’s. He met his wife, Starflower, at Woodstock. Manuel was a LeVeau of course and while most of his generation was turned on to “herb” Manuel sought only spice. He found Starflower hunched over a small fire making five-alarm chili. It was love at first taste. The two went on to create a hot pants manufacturing company that took the country by storm and kicked off a fashion craze.

Starflower and Manuel had a son, Floyd, who showed a remarkable inkling for science and attended MIT. It was here that Floyd LeVeau met his bride-to-be, the beautiful and stunning Tanaka Megumi-Sensei. Megumi, the direct descendent of the Sushi Sensei, was putting herself through school as a supermodel while studying genetics. Megumi sought to isolate the “Hot” gene, which accounted for the compelling sexuality of the physically attractive. Floyd’s work as a nuclear physicist involved discovering the elusive “Isotope X”. The two spent many late nights together sharing orders of take out food from the spiciest menus in town. Upon graduation, the couple was recruited by the Gum-On-A Stick Candy Factory, a front for a secret government underground research facility known only as Area 15, a lab where the world’s greatest minds delved into countless strange and bizarre experiments on a daily basis. Floyd and Megumi wed shortly after they joined gum-On-A-Stick. Floyd was successful in locating Isotope X and Megumi was able to isolate the Hot Gene from her own supermodel DNA. Living in Brooklyn, and working at an area 15 bunker under the cyclone in Coney Island, the two found time to have a daughter, Kiki LeVeau. Sadly the familial bliss was not to last.

When Kiki was 16 there was a terrible accident at Area 15 resulting in the total destruction of the facility and the death of her parents. Kiki, left all alone in the world, began to put her parent’s affairs in order and, while inventorying their small Brooklyn brownstone, discovered a secret safe hidden behind the refrigerator. Therein she found the wondrous treasures her family had amassed. There was family history in the form of journals, diaries, playbills, love letters and scientific papers. There were the access codes to the family hot pants fortune kept in a Swiss bank account. But most preciously there was The elusive Isotope X, The Hot Gene, seeds from the fabled Diablo Habanera, a treasure map to the location of the emperor’s wasabi, and a deed to the land upon which it grew. To another these would have been mysterious yet unrelated wonders. To the young girl this quartet of concepts was nothing less than the ingredients of a miraculous recipe. Kiki, having inherited Silas’s hatred of bland food decided to honor her family in the only way she knew how-to create the hottest sauce on earth, a sauce worthy of the history of LeVeau. This was the culmination of her family’s journey in this world. This was her legacy‚ĶWasabassco.

More Strange Stories…

R. Andrew Heidel

The work of R. Andrew Heidel has been acclaimed by some of the greatest writers of short fiction of our time. Both Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison have praised his skill at the craft of writing. His latest book is "Desperate Moon" and is available at Amazon.

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