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Compliments for Condiments

Life, as the saying goes, is messy. And never was it messier than on a recent morning, when the fates conspired to roundly foul up my pre-work routine. I first stepped out of the shower and straight onto a fresh gift from one of my pets, negating the entire bathing endeavor. I then brewed a cup of coffee only to find that I was out of creamer, which made my coffee taste like, well, coffee. Knowing that bad things occur in groups of three, I braced myself for an awful happenstance yet to come.

What might befall me next? A mid-April bomb cyclone? Giannis going down with a bum ankle/hamstring/knee? A diaper blowout that breached all conceivable borders and made my home uninhabitable?

Fearing all potential outcomes in equal measure, I chose instead to take my gross, coffee-tasting coffee outside so I could get some fresh air. The scent that greeted me instead, though, erased all memory of the morning I was enduring.

A neighbor was grilling. It was 8am. And I was positively transported, Dorothy-like, to a joyous new reality where pets behave as very good boys or girls and receive a steak for their trouble. Then, before I could even wonder if I needed to buy propane, I was thinking of something else entirely: all the wild elixirs I can purchase to make my grilled goods truly shine.

I’m the rare grillman who isn

’t terribly concerned with the meat that’s being cooked. Rather, I’m much more stoked to camp out in the condiment aisle, where I’m greeted by all manner of marinades and sauces and chutneys, many of which will soon occupy a parcel of my ever-shrinking pantry. Trust me, it’s a bit of a problem.

But why do I love condiments so much, often reducing the role of the foodstuffs that it’s nominally there to support? Because life is messy, and the right sauce at the right time gives all that messiness a purpose.

Consider the core foods that are commonly grilled. We’re talking about between six and ten various items, each with differing degrees of difficulty and openness to experimentation. It’s really a pretty limited smorgasbord, and an earth-shattering version of the hot dog isn’t walking through that door.

Then, consider the possibility that you might cook your protein poorly. Perhaps you’ve been a little heat-happy with a piece of chicken, or grilled a thick steak too quickly, or just selected the wrong cut of meat. Worst case, your dinner guests will already be mapping the nearest drive-thru by the time you’ve realized your folly.

But the best case? You can turn to your murderer’s row of seasonings and sauces, and have them share a small bit of the burden. When called upon, condiments enhance your best efforts, or act as the gastronomical equivalent of rubbing a little dirt on a scraped knee when your efforts are lacking.

In the sense that the smell of a nearby grill sends me sprinting toward Jacobs Meat Market, I suppose I’m no different from any other person with a functioning olfactory system. But it also sends me careening into the aisle where problems are solved, where ketchup and ranch can now be found in the same bottle, and where proof exists that recent photos of black holes aren’t the only areas of the universe left to be discovered.

Life is messy, as the saying goes. But I believe, in this rare instance, messier is better.

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