Hot take: condiments

Not to be dramatic, but I would rather die than touch a condiment. For posterity’s sake, I am defining condiments as viscous substances used to imbue further flavor onto a dish, so this definition includes but is not limited to ketchup, mustard, honey mustard, aioli, barbecue sauce, Béarnaise sauce, cocktail sauce, guacamole, Hollandaise, honey, hot sauce (Tabasco, Sriracha, etc.), honey mustard, mayonnaise, pesto, salad dressings, yellow mustard, teriyaki sauce, hoisin, tahini, sour cream, chutney and maple syrup. I will concede to being fully and outwardly supportive of the inclusion of dry condiments in dishes, such as salt, pepper, za’atar, Herbes de Provence, sesame seeds, chili powder, white pepper, monosodium glutamate, etc. However, if the condiment in question can be described as a sauce, dip, dressing, gravy, relish, compote, salsa, or any other wet additive, I rescind my loyalty. The reasons for this I will elucidate in this essay.

Condiments are essentially a concentrated blast of seasoning, meaning the flavor is pure and undiluted. When a flavor is unrelenting like this, then its smell will be as well. There is nothing I revile more than a pungent savory aroma piercing through the crisp air in fall as I see someone shove an overdressed, phallic hot dog into their mouth, smearing ketchup and mustard over their stupid face. This would not be as big of a deal if I did not work in a kitchen this summer. When I washed out bowls of sour cream and mustard and salsa, my fingers would not cease to smell like said condiment for at least three days, no matter how much I washed my hands, sanitized them, and even sprayed a diluted bleach solution onto them. The sickening scent of ketchup followed me everywhere, and it was like living with the Grim Reaper trailing behind me with every step I took. I am at a point in my life where I cannot breathe in the scent of a condiment without dry heaving and nearly disgorging whatever safely non-condiment-laden food I ate prior.

If I am touching a condiment, my throat begins to prepare for the inevitable spew of vomit that will launch from my mouth. Whether it is sticky, slimy, waxy, oily, tacky, watery or any other horrible adjective, the mere thought of a condiment making contact with my skin triggers a fight or flight response deep within me. The second a condiment is smeared onto my skin by a clumsy diner in Andrew Commons, I can feel my every inch of my dermis tingle outward from that single point. I freeze. And then I crumple to the ground, dead.

So how do I suggest we replace these condiments when I forcibly remove them from Andrew Commons in little time? The answer is simple, and has been in front of you the entire time. It is called monosodium glutamate, or MSG. It is a white, crystalline powder that is a flavor additive in food. This dry condiment is seen commonly in a lot of Asian cuisine, and it is unfairly subjected to criticism due to people claiming it causes headaches, or CRS (Chinese restaurant syndrome.) However, the uniquely Western fear of MSG is uncalled for, and even suggests an anti-Asian racism that flourishes in the States. MSG is the obvious solution for the gross overuse of viscous condiments. The flavor enhancer rounds our perception of tastes as well as balances and blends flavors seamlessly. It doesn’t leave a dirty residue on plates or cutlery, and it is easy to administer. Instating this mess-free solution is the only way to make Andrew Commons a truly safe environment for those of us who would rather die than touch a condiment.