Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ketchup, hot sauce, how I love thee...

Some people are condiment snobs. They want only the most exotic whole grain mustard, the most authentic creole hot sauce, the fancy-ass wassabi olive oil aioli, the organic ketchup made from tomatoes that volunteered to be in the bottle in the first place. And they will carry it with them, because what you have or what the restaurant has is just not good enough.

Some people are condiment phobics. They assume their food will be served as intended, and if you didn't put a remoulade on it, then it shouldn't be eaten with remoulade. To ask for a side of something not only doesn't make sense, it's offensive. (some chefs are like this)

Some people are condiment addicts. It doesn't matter how you prepare it, they will salt and pepper, put hot sauce and mayo, goop on the salsa and the ranch dressing. Often this behavior happens before tasting what has been given to them.

Some are condiment exclusive. They put ranch on everything. Everything. Salad, sandwiches, pizza, french fries, bread, apples, pretzels, chicken, crackers, cheese, pickles...

Some are condiment indifferent. It would never occur to them to use steak sauce on a steak, but if you provide it in a handy and cute ramekin, well, sure they'll use it.

Some are condiment indulgent. For them, a burger is just an excuse for the condiments and toppings. Subway is a little slice of heaven and the salad bar is acres of creative goodness.

I am condiment indulgent. My husband is condiment indifferent. I imagine that, reading this, he would think I would label him condiment phobic. This is because he eschews mayo, ranch, mustard, ketchup, pickles and most similar condiments. He used to be more strict about this; I have seen him make exceptions for aioli and remoulades, even if it's sometimes just a question of semantics. He is becoming more adventurous with condiments as ingredients, understanding the wonderful emulsifying powers of a dab of mustard in the vinaigrette. He eats his buffalo wings with blue cheese dressing, and is willing to at least try many new sauces, dressings and dips.

I don't really see him as condiment phobic, but more condiment indifferent. And while I tease him about this, it doesn't really bother me. (I am occasionally frustrated by his condiment association blocks on food. We rarely have sloppy joe's, because although he likes my sloppy joe's, the dish itself reminds him of the ones his family used to make with ground beef and ketchup and little else and so never likes the thought of them.) More than anything, it's something I find cute, eccentric and a funny thing to rib him about. But it works out for me, because I get his cole slaw from his fish and chips, and I never have to worry about running out of sour cream because he used the last of it.

He's happy to eat his steak naked (ahem, I mean, the steak would be naked, not necessarily him...) and his burger as-is. The answer to, "would you like a little smear of pesto on your turkey panini?" is probably yes, but he's not the type to take a taste and say, "you know, this really needs some pesto." I'm the type to be disappointed almost to the point of emotionally ruining dinner for myself if I have to eat my steak without A-1. And if I bought Wegman's brand A-1 thinking it would taste the same and it soooo doesn't and I've made beautiful medium rare thick steaks and my sauce is sub par? I'm inwardly pouty and looking forward to the next time I can make steak because this time doesn't really count.

Now that I've laid out the condiment labels for the people of the world, I'm thinking people probably can be in more than one category, and that I'm pigeon holing people.

Quick, how many brands of hot sauce do you have in your cupboard/fridge? I can think of five off the top of my head. I am a big fan of spice and have been since I was a kid. I have a higher threshold for heat than most of my friends and family. (Past boyfriends have taken this as a blow to their manhoods, virtually ruining their plates of food just to prove they can keep up.)

What about mustards? I'm thinking of four in my fridge... honey, yellow, brown and whole grain. What about you all? Where do you fall in the condiment spectrum? Do you always salt? Do you need a side of thousand island for your reuben? Or do you ask for your burrito with no frills, eating your tortilla chips plain?


  1. Five hot sauces...? Umm, let's see. There's sriracha, the Goya habanero one, which is yummy... Um, I think there's still like a Tabasco-style one maybe. Do we still have some of that green one? And I don't know what else... Unless you're calling sambal oelek a hot sauce, which I guess it is.

    Oh! And that yellow mustard-based one in the flask shaped bottle...

    You'll have to come down for lunch some day and we'll go to Gringo's, they have this whole cart of hot sauces. Most of the people I go with seem to favor these very vinegary, buffalo wingy ones, which don't as much work for me. My favorite so far is one from Trinidad with scotch bonnets and green papaya. Yummy.

  2. I don't know what pigeon hole to crawl into. If you count salt & pepper, I guess I'm an addict. But, is salt really a condiment? Otherwise, I suppose I am an indulgent. But, Franks Louisiana Hot Sauce does not really count as a hot sauce, in spite of the name. Two days after it is opened, it is just red vinegar. Does that mean I am also a condiment snob. Help!

  3. Oh, and maybe for my birthday or something someone ought to give me the "one from Trinidad with scotch bonnets and green papaya."

  4. Hmmmmm... "is salt a condiment?" Very interesting question! I have mixed feelings, and so I research.

    According to Merriam-Webster, yes.

    Main Entry: con·di·ment
    Pronunciation: \ˈkän-də-mənt\
    Function: noun
    Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin condimentum, from condire to season
    Date: 15th century
    : something used to enhance the flavor of food ; especially : a pungent seasoning

    Besides, Lance, I've seen you assemble a wide variety of additions in front of your place setting at dinner time. I would consider you an addicted snob, probably, in the very nicest of terms. You like what you like and you like it right.

    Chilli, like burgers, is the sort of food that begs to be adorned with condiments, does it not?

  5. How could one eat it otherwise?

  6. Chili, I think, if it's made nice and spicy enough in the first place, probably doesn't need much in the way of additional hot sauce.

    And I'll have to scope out the Trinidad-ian hot sauce, see if it can be found anywhere. Cause it's tasty.

  7. I see your point about properly spiced chili and hot sauce, but what about cheese and crackers? Some people adorn with onions, too.

  8. Cheese? Crackers? Onions? Now I think we're stretching the condiment thing. ;-)

    The hot sauce by the way is called Matouk's, which can apparently be found at matoukshotsauce.net. And probably elsewhere...