Saturday, June 20, 2009

And now, a word or two about sauce.

While my friend and I were in Bozeman, we had lunch at a terrific little tapas place. We both had sandwiches. I ordered mine with fries, which came accompanied by a chipotle catsup.

(and now, we pause for a short moment in personal history:)

When I was a kid and my dad was in the Air Force, we lived in Japan for three years. I was eight when we moved there and eleven when we moved back to the States. In the middle there, we went to the Officer's Club to swim in the summers. This meant, among other things, proving that you could swim so you could have your yellow patch so you could go in the deep end, and also during the once-hourly out-of-the-pool break, buying french fries at the snack bar. (To me, to this day, swimming at a public pool calls out for french fries, which doesn't always happen, which leaves, therefore, a certain feeling of incompletion and loss. But I digress.) At the snack bar, the french fries came with a side squirt of catsup, which I ended up disliking quite a bit. I did not, however, complain about this openly. I just ate the non-catsup-y fries first, then the ones that had been only barely anointed, then the ones where I could sort of scrape off the catsup. And, thenceforth, I have preferred my fries to be accompanied only by salt. Or, if the fries are amazing, perhaps salt that has been chopped with fresh garlic.

(back to Bozeman:)

Chipotle catsup is a whole different thing than catsup. I am sure there's a fancier way to do it, but you can make it by putting (a) catsup in a small dish, and (b) shaking as much bottled chipotle sauce as you like on top. You can go ahead and use a fry to mix it, because you can eat the mixing implement, and the fry will be ever-so-perfectly enhanced by this subtle improvement. I never thought I would say it, but this kind of catsup is a perfect accompaniment for fries.

Onto another sauce: the Bozeman sandwich had basil aioli.
Friend: So, you do mayonnaise now?

Me: This isn't mayonnaise. This is aioli.
Moreover, basil aioli.

(and now, another short moment in personal history:)

My mom used to pack my lunches when I was in elementary school. Let us pause now to salute lunch-packing moms, who try to keep track of the picky tastes of elementary schoolers, who may like, say, bologna with cheese one week, but form an inexplicable and unalterable opposition to the very idea of such a sandwich the next. Never mind that there's a whole new package of bologna. Bologna shall never again cross the palate of the elementary schooler, and that non-negotiable truth is the New Lunch Rules. (This is the basic story of how I didn't eat eggs from about age six to last year.)

Anyway: in sixth grade, I loved deviled ham. The kind that came in a can. You put a little mayo on the bread, spread on the deviled ham, topped with another piece of bread. Slide the sammy into a waxed paper bag, bag of chips, orange wedges, cookie, and back in the day, we'd call that lunch. Except for the day when a tiny globule of mayo happened to adorn the edge of the crust of this sandwich. It caught my eye. I contemplated it. I considered it. Why should a slightly glossy-looking bit of mayonnaise which had escaped its breadly home bother me? What difference could this possibly make? Except that it did. Mayonnaise thenceforth became my mortal and eternal enemy.

(back to Bozeman:)

But aioli is not mayonnaise, and mayonnaise is not aioli. Especially basil aioli. Which was the perfect accompaniment for the delicious sandwich I wolfed down, accompanied by fries and chipotle catsup.

And thus ends the disquisition upon sauces, amen.


  1. I totally agree about the pool and french fries. I think for me it started in Iowa, but I could be wrong.
    When I was a kid I liked this spread called deviled ham and it came in a squirt tube? The very idea of it makes me a bit sick now, but boy, those were the days.
    I also have an aversion to caraway seeds because of a certain daycare and the daily bread & bologna sandwiches. Also, I hate bologna.
    Nice post. I look forward to other insightful posts about condiments.

  2. Have I mentioned that I do not eat condiments? Or rather, I don't eat any of the American or Northern European condiments. I threw up at school in 4th grade because someone put mayo on something I ate without my knowledge.

    Also bologna; even before I did the veg thing, I wouldn't touch bologna.

  3. Hilarious entry, hightouch.

    One day, my dear grandmother mistakenly put the paper picture of the bologna, which had dropped from the inside packaging onto the top slice, into my school sandwich. It was early; she was tired.

    I continued to eat my school lunches for the next four years. But like a child who peers under the bed and into the closet before sleep, I started to carefully inspect what was between any and all slices.

  4. Bologna is a monstrosity. On this we can all agree. I don't like mayo either, unless mixed in potato salad, but only if I've mixed it in, other people put too much.



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