Hi friends. I apologize because I spent the past few days travelling and didn’t have time to write a newsletter. But I can’t wait to tell you about my adventures, one of which involves something that rhymes with lown otel.
However, I mentioned something about my hatred of most condiments in last week’s Guy Fieri newsletter, and got a few responses defending those vile sauces. So here’s a reprint of my official stance on The Big Three, as I like to call them: ketchup, mayo, and mustard. This was originally published in CityBeat, but since those archives are kaputt, it is my noble duty to put this 100% correct take back in the stratosphere.
A little background on this piece: I originally pitched it to VICE’s food site, Munchies. They liked the pitch so I wrote it. Then the story went through, like, three drafts with one editor who just didn’t seem to like it, and then that editor was laid off and the story got passed down to another editor, who wanted a completely different direction. By that time, I had been working for a month on this stupid little article, which hardly seemed worth what they were paying me.
After about the sixth or seventh revision, Munchies decided to kill the piece and offered me something like a 20% kill fee. I got it up to 40%, but still. This is just a lesson that freelance journalism is often a bullshit world where you spend weeks pitching, writing, revising, and negotiating for less money than it would take to list an NFT on the market.
No gods, no editors, I say. This is why I love Substack so much.
So, come at me, condiment-lovers.
There’s a scene in Sam Raimi’s 1981 horror classic The Evil Dead where our hero, Ash, fighting his reanimated friend (called “deadites” in the Evil Dead universe), places his thumbs against the monster’s eyes and pushes inwards. We watch from Ash’s point of view as his thumbs disappear into its eye sockets. The deadite screams as thick blood pours from his new orifices.
That scene scared the shit out of me when I first saw it at the too-young age of 12. I have seen my share of horror movies since, but you always remember your first ocular destruction.
The violence of the scene messed me up, but what got to me even more was the consistency of the blood that oozed from the eye sockets. It looked like ketchup. Fucking all-American, Heinz ketchup.
It makes sense, though, because what else would emit from a walking corpse’s skull besides one of the three most evil substances on earth?
Ketchup, mayo, and mustard are staples of the American dining experience, and just like the deadites in The Evil Dead, they are nearly impossible to kill. The Big Three—as I like to call them—will never die. And I, for one, am tired of it.
Let’s take a look at The Big Three to see why everything about the condiment lineage is garbage.
There have been anti-ketchup takes before. After our idiot former president admitted that he preferred his steaks well-done and slathered in the stuff, he became a laughing stock except to his followers, who started ruining their own steaks to own the libs. But for the most part, Trump’s need to drown an expensive cut of meat in a sweet, tangy sauce was widely perceived as gauche.
But Trump’s preference for ketchup highlights the condiment’s fundamental flaw: its sweetness. It’s obscene, the culinary equivalent to a witch that lives in a candy house. The practical reason behind the flavor is Heinz using shitloads of sugar to counterbalance the vinegar, which prevents spoilage before it hits your dinosaur chicken nuggets or whatever. Mmmm, tastes like borderline rot. When there are so many better tomato products in the world—salsa; pico de gallo; marinara—the fact that people are so gaga for a sugary-sweet perversion blows my mind.
Next up comes yellow mustard. Mustard is by far the most evil of the condiments. It’s the Dick Cheney of the Big Three: happy to take backseat to ketchup’s fame, but when it’s mustard’s turn to strike, it does so loudly, ruthlessly, and violently.
I guess I sort of understand the appeal of loud and brazen things. I also understand how some people would like that in food—how eating becomes not so much an act of enjoyment, but a dare. When I was ten, my friend had a toy called Dr. Dreadful’s Freaky Food Lab, which was a kit that allowed kids to make edible gummy spiders, fizzy brain drinks, and spooky stuff like that. Everything we made from that kit tasted awful, but it was fun to eat because it was so gross. Yellow mustard is basically one of those science experiments, a food product for people who never grew out of eating zany things, mustard is fun to eat because it’s so vile. If those suicide drinks that kids get at the gas station were a condiment, it’d be yellow mustard. It’s hard to describe the flavor because it’s every flavor—simultaneously vinegary, tangy, sour, sweet and spicy. Truly an abomination.
And mayo? The only reason I assume people like mayo is because they prefer their food to have that “past its expiration date” taste. I’m not entirely sure why people prefer to lather their sandwiches with unnerving tang, but I can only imagine it’s largely for practical reasons, like making food easier to swallow. People harp on me for eating sandwiches “dry,” but I have no problem with it. I’m not some baby bird that needs its food figuratively chewed up for it to slide down my throat.
Yes, taste is subjective. Everybody should eat what they want. Hell, take a bath in Mayomust if you er... must. However, there’s no denying that The Big Three objectively bulldoze over subtle flavors and nuances. These condiments are basically the culinary equivalent of a summer blockbuster. I can’t think of a bigger insult to a chef than throwing one of these trash condiments on an otherwise thoughtful dish. Plus, we live in an increasingly foodie-friendly world, where superior condiments exist. I mean, why use anything when we can use hot sauce?
But if you want to keep ruining decent food with mass-produced, corporate slop, be my guest. One of the best things about being an adult is the ability to eat whatever you want, even if it looks like something that just dripped out of a walking corpse.
Sorry, no weekly goods this week, either. However, I just want to say that since last week’s newsletter, there’ve been two mass shootings—one of which was targeted act of violence against women of Asian descent.
What is there left to say? This is our country: a racist, gun-obsessed hellhole for people who aren’t white or male, and since I’m both of those things, I recognize that violence like this will never affect me like other communities. I know that feeling safe in America is a privilege that I have. And putting this type of condemnation of violence at the end of a glib newsletter is truly the least anyone can ever do.
But to all my friends of Asian descent: you are welcome here. I don’t know if I can ever understand your hurt, but I’m here for you. I’m thinking about you. My heart goes out to you.
Go read Jim Ruland’s newsletter today. He talks about gun violence in ways that are much smarter than I could ever.
Normalize sex work, and ban guns for white men.
Got a tip or wanna say hi? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow me on Twitter @theryanbradford. And if you like what you’ve just read, please hit that little heart icon at the end of the post.
Julia Dixon Evans edited this post. Thanks, Julia. Go follow her on Twitter.