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The Evil of Condiments

It goes back to my childhood. I’ve never liked them and I never will. One of my early childhood memories is of sitting in the lunchroom at Harvey Scott Elementary School under the incandescent lights, eating the peanut butter and jelly sandwich that my mom made me each day. I don’t remember who the other student was, I think he was older, but I remember his words to this day. “Your mom doesn’t put dressing on your sandwich? It’s so dry.” And from there the lunacy has continued to this day.

Whatever you call condiments: “dressing”, “secret sauce”, “spread”, whatever, I disdain them. I oftentimes wonder if the world has been somehow fooled into believing that a sandwich, finger food or salad is “dry” without condiments slathered all over them. That is absurd, plain and simple. Do you have any idea what the water content is of lettuce? How can a sandwich be “dry”? It makes no sense.

Mayonnaise and its derivatives are the most evil of the condiments. Mayo, as it is commonly known, is little more than fat and egg whites. And people eat this?! It seems to be standard issue on most sandwiches at most places. For the condiment fearing few in this world like myself, Mayo is the bane of our existence when dinning out. Menus never list all the ingredients on a burger or sandwich that you order. When querying the waiter or waitress about what the item in question has on it, you’ll typically get an answer such as: “lettuce, tomato, and pickles.” The follow up question then always has to be: “Does it have mayo or anything else?” The server, looking at you as if you were from another country, will usually reply: “Oh yeah, of course.” Like I should have known, as if it comes pre-applied to the bun. I want full disclosure of an item’s ingredients. Is that too much to ask?

Apparently yes.

I should state right now that the one condiment that I can tolerate, and which I actually enjoy, is barbecue sauce. It is a rather rare condiment, residing mainly at places that serve ribs, but will also make appearances at run of the mill restaurants on occasion. Usually it will show up as a barbecue chicken sandwich or a western style bacon burger. Experience has shown that usually when ordering one of these choices, you’ll get enjoyable food with the meat and veggies and the barbecue sauces. It is known as a “safe bet” to those avoiding mayo, ketchup and mustard. But this bet is not always safe. Take for instance the time at a restaurant named Dots that I ordered the barbecue chicken sandwich for lunch when I was out with a dozen or so coworkers on a “Lunch Safari”. The sandwich arrives, and guess what it has all over it? You guessed it. Mayo. Now, even for the majority of people that eat condiments, does this sound like a good combination? Barbecue sauce and mayo, I’d think not.

Mayonnaise derivatives are just as bad or oftentimes worse than plain mayo. The most common is a concoction known as 1,000. Short for 1,000 Island Dressing. This is nothing more than mayo (which you’ll remember is fat and egg whites) mixed with pickle relish. The result is a pink goo with bits of finely chopped pickle. I worked at a Dairy Queen for two and a half years, and in my time there I had to deal with both mayo and 1,000. We actually got 5 gallon buckets of mayo and gallon size jars of relish. Mayo was dispensed straight out of the bucket, but to get the 1,000, well, that wasn’t a pretty sight. Imagine this, and try not to lose your lunch. Take an empty mayo bucket. Dump in the jar of relish. Add an equal part mayo. Then, take the specially designed mixing paddle (I’m serious, we had a paddle thing) and mash it all together. After you were done whipping it up it was ready to serve. I had visions of the horror that would result if Gallagher ever were to get his hands on a bucket of mayo and hurl it off the 5th story of some building somewhere.

Another mayonnaise derivative that comes prepackaged at some places, disguised as “fry dipping sauce”, or I’ve often witnessed people custom mixing, is mayo and ketchup. A lesser known fast food franchise, Arctic Circle, is one such place that offers the fry sauce. Usually people simply squeeze various packets into a glob on their plate, burger wrapper or tray, and commence to mixing with a french fry. The result is a sickly looking pink goo that people seems to eat with gusto.

Enough of mayonnaise.

Ketchup and mustard are common condiments that seem to be applied to the cheaper food items that apparently aren’t worthy of mayonnaise. For instance, the standard hamburger at any fast food place. You won’t get mayo, but you’ll get ketchup and mustard. Why is this? I don’t know and I won’t speculate on it. I just know that each of these condiments have an unpleasant odor, especially if left to sit. I think it has to do with the vinegar in each.

People again seem unable to eat many foods without one or the other of these nasty things. French fries are the most classic example. By the time anyone reaches adulthood they have probably experienced sharing french fries with a group of friends. You might have been out somewhere and stopped for burgers and ordered a basket of french fries to split, or you’re at a sporting event and have paid $5 for a potato that has been cut and fried. In any event, someone will inevitably grab the red squeeze bottle of ketchup and proceed to squirt a huge glob of it on the fries. This action is done without asking and without the thought that it would offend. For me however, the fries have been contaminated and I’m left thinking that I should have just ordered my own.

And what about those squeeze bottles, or the pumps that more and more fast food places are moving towards. How sanitary can they be? How old is the stuff in there? You’ll see people grab the bottle and squeeze, only to get the mostly clear portion that has risen to the top as the contents have settled and sat out. Back to my Dairy Queen days, we had a pump there for ketchup. Foulest thing you’ll experience at a Dairy Queen, that is of course next to the mayo and 1,000.

Sour cream is the condiment that appears most in mexican food. Try to order a big burrito from a cart in the downtown of any city in America. Chances are that you’ll get sour cream smeared on the tortilla. On many occasions, even after having specified more than once, that I wanted no sour cream, the burrito person will spread it on. I’ll correct them, politely, and they’ll be puzzled, scrape it off and proceed. Let it be known that it is okay to tell the burrito person to get you a new tortilla. Scraping it off just doesn’t cut it. The penalty that you end up paying at the burrito cart for your dislike of sour cream is that the guy waiting behind you will be served before you, because hey, the burrito guy has a tortilla in his hand with sour cream on it. He screwed up, but you, the paying customer, are the one that is penalized for his screw up. But, what do you expect from a burrito cart person, I mean, they’re working at a burrito cart.

Let’s move on to salads, and salad dressing. I contend that salad dressing for the most part, bastardizes the flavor of the salad. Why bother mixing in all sorts of exotic vegetables and fruits and nuts if you are just going to use these ingredients as a holder for your dressing? What about the flavors of the salad? If you’re putting dressing on it, is freshness much of a concern? I’d think that if you are covering something in a flavoring, you’d be doing so to disguise the flavor of the food you are covering. I just don’t get salad dressing.

Caesar salad is the worse offender when it comes to salad and salad dressing. That stuff smells so foul. The Caesar is a classic example of bland food being used as a basis for a condiment. You basically have lettuce and croutons with dressing. It is eaten for the condiment itself. Any potluck I’ve ever been to has always had some salad that someone premixed with some mystery dressing on it. Is it such a difficult concept to grasp for everyone that you could put the salad dressing bottle right next to the salad and let people apply as much or as little dressing as they like?

Apparently yes.

So, here ends my rant on the evil of condiments. Thanks for reading, and fight the good fight.

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