Condiments are People Too

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

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.

Vegetarianism: Where D’You Get Your Protein?

Photo from the talented Krisztian Hoffer,

Where D’you Get Your Protein?’

Hi there, readers. My name is Emily, and I’m a vegetarian.

Well, let me be honest. I was vegetarian for many, many years growing up, and then I fell off the wagon. Why? Because bacon is delicious. It really, truly is. Anybody who tells you a thick slice of tempeh is ‘better’ than bacon is either a liar or has no good remembrance of what bacon tastes like. Bacon is the taste of angels playing saxaphone. It’s the taste of soft-focus eighties love scenes on a white bearskin rug. It is. OMFG. Awesome.

But we’re back on the wagon now, and my friends have questions for me. Okay–a lot of them have the same question.

I’m not going to go into my reasoning for re-vegging here–you have some other vegetarian friend who’s given it to you already, at length, probably with a beer or bottle of whiskey balanced on one knee.

So don’t worry, this isn’t going to be one of those ‘vegetarian lifestyle’ posts. I don’t think there IS a damned lifestyle, and I get very tired of people who try to tell me there is. Just because you don’t eat meat doesn’t mean you’ve earned a street festival and a pride float, or have the right to attempt changing the dietary decisions of your friends and family. Bacon is, after all, delicious. And some people want the delicious.

So don’t worry about all that. I’m posting this vegetarian-themed blog for a single reason–a surprisingly scientific reason.

If one more person asks me ‘where I’m going to get my protein’, I am going to scientifically murder a busload of babies.

I don’t know how the complete myth that meat is the only food-substance containing protein has continued on into the modern age. Not when we have nutrition labels on everything, Google at our fingertips.

Grains and legumes have a TON of protein. So does dairy, obviously.

And here’s the thing–your daily protein requirement? Not that tough to meat. (Like that pun, eh? Eh? EH?)

A woman requires 46g of protein a day, a man 56. Let’s examine foods with protein in them for a second, shall we? Let’s start with my sad little work lunch.

I had, for lunch, a TastyBite serving of Jaipur Vegetables and a greek yogurt. I scarfed down a bagel for breakfast on my way to work. Go on, whine about processed foods and not-enough-veggies for a while. I’ll just smile blandly and turn a deaf ear.

Done? Okay. Here’s my daily protein count so far.

Bagel with cream cheese: 13ishg protein
TastyBite Jaipur Veggies–14g protein
Muller Lowfat Greek Yoghurt With Candied Almonds–13g protein

Woah! It’s only lunch time, and I’ve already had forty fucking grams of protein. Incredible, no? Without eating any meat. And, most importantly–without even thinking about it, until I started typing this.

And I WILL have some ice cream for dessert. Not sure what’s for dinner, but there WILL be ice cream for dessert. The 46g requirement will be reached.

So, hmm. How to put this.

Thank you for your concern about my protein intake. Even though I’ve NEVER heard you mention protein in conversation before, OR concern about how much of it people in general eat. Even though you couldn’t name five non-meat foods that contain protein. Thanks.

If you really cared about the health of my tubby little self, you might want to ask thoseĀ  what’re-you-eating questions about calories and fat. Trust me, THAT total for today’s food isn’t nearly as pretty. Jaipur vegetables, apparently, don’t come ‘skinny’. Ice cream does, but I prefer ice cream that doesn’t taste like country-fried ass.

(On a writerly sidenote: does anyone else grind their teeth to near-combustion every time someone refers to a low-fat food as ‘skinny’? No, that food IS NOT SKINNY. Not unless it’s spaghetti, or julienned carrots, or something else very narrow. What that food is, in fact, is ‘low fat’ or ‘low calorie’. Stop it, incorrect euphemisms. STOP IT.)

Anyway, sorry for taking up y’all’s time. I’m posting this mostly so I can print up some nice little cards with the URL for this post on them and hand them out to the next fifty people who feel the need to ask me this question.

Here’s a link, if you were curious, about twelve non-meat sources of protein, and wow, most of them are just as good as a goddamn steak. Sure, the author confuses ‘whooping’ and ‘whopping’, but not everyone’s a twitchy grammarian with a hair-trigger temper, and many good points are made.