Condiments are People Too

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Photo cruelly cropped from a lovely original by icaro leite, at freeimages.com

Five Totally Worthwhile Condiments

Okay, guys. I should’ve done a writing post today, and I know it.

But the fact is, I’m sick n’ tired of talking about writing. I talk about writing all the goddamn time, and there’s so much more to my life that you, my captive audience, need to know all about.

Like how I feel about condiments.

Let me explain myself. I’m not talking about the make-your-own mayo, squeeze-your-ketchup-tomatoes-by-hand kind of condiments. Those are great, of course. I have my tomato relish and celery sauce recipes in my mindbrain, where no computer crash will ever rob me of them.

But sometimes–sometimes. You have fries, or Wheat Thins, or toasted baby arms, or whatever crispy snack you prefer, on a plate, and LEGASP, no time to make your own ketchup, like a proper frontierswoman. Should you abandon all dignity and head for the Heinz?

Hell, naw. Have standards, you tramp.

My fridge groans with condiments. The door shelf sags outward under the weight of a glass jar and bottle invasion. Want mustard? I’ve got like fifty kinds of it. Want soy sauce? I don’t even know what that is any more, be more specific. I know, I know, premade condiments are just full of preservatives and food coloring and GMO death omg. But get off your high horse for a minute. Stop thinking about how every particle of nourishment that passes your lips is poisoning you. And admit it: sometimes you just want to grab a goddamn bottle out of the fridge.

So, for today’s post, instead of nattering on about plot holes and guns going off in the third act, we’re giving you five of Emily’s trusty premade condiment staples. Why? Because why not. You can’t tell me what to do. Long live the rebellion. Aspfhrrgsgfl;.

(A NOTE–I wouldn’t actually buy any of these things on Amazon. The prices are, on average, about three times what I pay in my hometown. But I wanted to show you what I get. Because I love you.)

Pickapeppa Sauce–Pickapeppa is a minor god among somambulent sauces. Where others sleep, Pickapeppa mainlines coffee. Where others whisper, Pickapeppa roars.

Pickapeppa has a sweet, almost molasses-like tang, with orangelike afternotes and more sourness and sweetness than heat. One of the ingredients on the bottle is ‘peppers’, but don’t worry, the only people who’re going to find this spicy are your ninety year old grandmother and her toothless daschund. I used to love it on burgers, in my meat-eating days, but it’s good on everything else ever as well. I even put it on vanilla ice cream once (yes, because I am insane).

Doubanjiang–You like Sriracha? You think dotting your morning eggs with Sriracha is spicy and adventurous? Fuck you, buddy. (Actually, I love Sriracha too. Poured straight into my mouth. In shots.)

Doubanjiang (Pi Xian being my chosen variety, though it’s hard to find, at least in a relatively rural area) is what Sriracha became when it grew up and got some years of working experience. It’s a red broadbean paste made in Sichuan province, traditionally left to ferment and mellow, sometimes for years, in large clay pots. (Is the cheaper stuff made that way? Is Pi Xian made that way? I have no idea). There’s a spicy version, which tastes deep and spicy and a little earthy, and a non-spicy version, which, to me at least, tastes a little bit like miso paste. I use the spicy version in mapo tofu, but it’s also great on eggs, as a dipping sauce for fried tofu, with plain rice, or anywhere you require red spiciness ever again ever.

Banana Sauce–The first time I tried banana sauce, I wasn’t completely sold. I saw a bottle at my local asian market, and it was cheap, and I was like what the hell, why not.

Two years down the line, banana ketchup has become my permaketchup.

It doesn’t taste that different from bottled ketchup, really. A little sweeter. The kind I get is deep red in color and has an unusual gloppy texture. Seeing as it’s made from bananas, I’m guessing it has enough red food coloring in it to kill you slowly. But man oh man, is it addictive. It’s a Philippino thing–they use it on all sorts of stuff, spaghetti dishes being the one I’ve seen the most when I google ‘banana ketchup’, which I do more than I’d want to admit–but, not being from the Philippines, I should probably leave that up to the folks who’re masters therein. Me, I just put it on everything I used to put ketchup on. Thank you, trusty bottle of banana ketchup. Thank you.

Duke’s Mayo–If you’re not from the American South, you might not have heard of Duke’s. This is because you’ve lived a sad, colorless life, and your southern-style salads are devoid of true meaning.

Why do people swear by Duke’s? Because it tastes better. I don’t know what else to tell you, but it does. It probably has a host of non clean living ingredients that make it taste better, but dear Jesus, I do not care.

I slipped up last week. My grocery store had Kraft two for one and I, like a moron, bought Kraft. After my first cucumber salad came out sad and tasteless, I went right back to the damn store and made everything okay. I owed it to my boyfriend. No one should have to take that Kraft shit.

Green Pepper Jelly– What a strange thing to make jelly out of, you say.

Your mom is strange, I say right back, sticky-sweet green goo oozing out of my face hole.

Green pepper jelly is sweet. You probably figured that out–it is a jelly. But it’s got this funky sharp and earthy aftertaste that’s worth talking about, and keeps it from being totally cloying (which is, to be honest, how I find most jellies after brief exposure). And it’s green. Which is, really, all I demand from most food items.

Useful anywhere you need a jelly, but I have two particular uses for which I adore it: one is inside cornmeal thumbprint cookies around Christmas time (I use green pepper jelly for the green ones, red pepper jelly for the red. How cute.) and the other is on Wheat Thins, in combination with cream cheese. I have no idea where I got that one. I think it was Mom. But it’s awesome.

And, bonus points!

Chow chow. Oh, chow-chow. What are you, exactly?

Deliciousness. Sheer, tangy, sweetie, yellow deliciousness. I put you on hot dogs for years. I’ll put you on soy dogs for more years. My collards are incomplete without you. Actually: any green I make is incomplete without you. I’ve forced you into chicken salad before, and I was sorry for it. You didn’t belong there. Next time, I’ll just serve chicken salad with a scoopful of chow-chow beside it.

Chow-chow is…a relish. Of some sort. It comes in both sweet and spicy varieties, both of which I recommend. I left it off my original list because I couldn’t for the life of me tell you exactly what’s in it, but by God, a condiment listing without chow-chow in it is sadly incomplete.

There you go. Non-writing silliness, and God Save the Condiments.

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7 thoughts on “Condiments are People Too

    1. This is because mustard is such a general term. I mean, can we really limit ourselves to one mustard, when there’s practically endless variety? I say no. I say boo on those narrowminded sycophants who would tell you their fridges are clean and their door-shelves unbowed. Up the mustard! Up the revolution!

      I mean…well, I don’t know what I mean, but definitely something less emphatic than what I just said.

  1. When I read posts like this I realise America is a foreign country. In Britain if we come across a sauce that is anything other than tomato, brown, soy or salad cream we pick it up like some sort of alien baby and gawp.

    There are local variants; my home territory has Lancashire sauce, and anyone outside Lancashire will turn into a Lancastrian and die if they eat it. But we Brits (he says smugly) are still troglodytes when it comes to food. One or two foody pretenders in London who think they know what they’re talking about, but for the rest of us, condiments are what you pay to someone when you’re impressed with a goal/golf swing/their wife etc

    1. You realize, of course, that I now MUST know what Lancashire sauce is, and try it. I’ll take the risk. If Trump wins the presidency I’ll need a new home, anyhow, and it might as well be a pauper’s grave in foreign soil.

      I’m a troglodyte too, I just have a love of shiny sauces and neatly designed bottles that veers into obsession territory. And my limited experience with British food (as in, made in America by an American person looking at Pinterest with American ingredients limited), well, I’ve liked it. A lot of it’s not too different from Southern comfort food, really. And it seems like there’s a lot of gravies. ARE there a lot of gravies? Or is Pinterest deceiving me?

      1. Along with onion gravy you can have gravy made from chicken stock. Stocks tend to be Oxo or Bovril, both of which can be drunk like a beverage. Very versatile is gravy. I tend to have mine on batted haddock alongside mushy peas, which causes some people to look at me ‘in a funny way.’

    1. I thought it was you! Wasn’t one hundred percent sure it wasn’t Dad, though.

      I LOVE the red jalapeno jelly. I’ve used that in my cookies a time or two, too–I prefer the flavor it it, actually, but the colors aren’t nearly as Christmassy as the red and green pepper.

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