I am wholly against the use of all condiments in food.

You can keep your mustard-drenched hot dogs and ketchup-drowned french fries, (preferably far away from me). Please don’t honey-glaze my chicken wings, and preserve my chicken tenders from your buffalo sauce, thanks. 

Talk about an unpopular opinion. I’ve never explained this to a single person without them concluding that I’m crazy. They’re not wrong. But there’s still a method to this particular madness, and if I explain, maybe someone will see where I’m coming from. 

I stopped believing in sauces the same day I stopped believing in Santa Claus. 

That morning, I scurried from my bed to the living room to find not a single present under the tree. 

Santa had tried to visit us, my mother explained, but was mistaken for a burglar by the neighborhood vigilantes, and chased out. My brother and I were amused enough — if not wholly convinced — by my mother’s bizarre explanation that we didn’t push it. Instead, we danced to the festive jingles, and found some inane way to amuse ourselves while waiting on Christmas brunch.

And then brunch came: two eggs cooked over easy, bacon fried to the edge of crispy, toast, baked beans, and chips. (Or, as you Americans say, fries.) But my parents had just started this new phase of being anti-salt and fat. It was okay for the most part, because oil doesn’t really make a difference with eggs, bacon, toast, or baked beans. 

But with the chips, it made all the difference: Thanks to this new “healthy eating” wave, the chips had been baked to a rock, without any salt or seasoning. There they lay on the plate, hard and tasteless cardboard. 

In our house, we had a “no waste” rule. Forgoing the chips was not an option unless you wanted to get whipped on Christmas Day. So my brother excused himself from the table and grabbed the new bottle of ketchup in our fridge. 

In our valiant struggle against blandness, we used at least a quarter of that bottle, but I emerged with a valuable lesson. Just like my mother’s story about Santa was designed to soften the truth, ketchup and all such condiments were a cover-up — meant to lend woefully bad food with some semblance of being edible.   

Since then, I’ve always happily forgone the sloppy, sugary wetness of sauces in favor of a well-executed dry rub, and I’m a lot better off for it. If you make your food with the right ingredients and effort, you’re never going to need a sauce. If you need a sauce to get through it, you shouldn’t be eating it in the first place. 

Don’t slap on some salt and then throw it in the fryer hoping for the best. Smother it in your personal favorite seasoning concoction, and soak it for at least six hours. Preferably for a day, wrapped in cling film or foil to retain all the juices. If you do that, and then — and only then — fry or bake it, the seasony goodness will permeate every inch of the meat. Instead of constantly dipping your food into sauce, your hands will stay planted next to your mouth as you try to get it all in. 

Life is too short to eat shitty food, or for everything we eat to taste like Mel sauce.

So let’s hold our food, and ourselves, to a higher standard.

Tagged: food sauce


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