I offered to pass the ketchup down to the family sitting next to us at the picnic table and the mother of the group said: “No thanks. We’re mustard people.”
Maybe I’ve been in Idaho too long, but I didn’t even know there was such a thing as “mustard people.” Then, I guess it’s logical to assume there are also “ketchup people.”
I’m aware many people prefer one condiment to another, but I didn’t realize they identified as mustard or ketchup. Of course, there are those who swing both ways, but you have that in any group.
And then, there are the mayonnaise people, about whom we have nothing to say. They’re so bland.
Perhaps it has to do with genetics. The ability to taste and prefer one flavor to another may actually be less a matter of preference than something in our chemical makeup.
Or it could just be the way we were raised. Grandma always served mustard and eschewed the ketchup, and so that’s the way our family is. It’s tradition.
I was raised in a family that ate both ketchup and mustard, and was taught to take whatever was in front of you and don’t complain. “You get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit,” was my mother’s refrain.
I never thought about it much. There’s a lot in life to worry about; choosing between mustard and ketchup just didn’t seem like such a big deal.
Then I grew up and one day discovered on the grocery store shelves, Sriracha — that Asian hot pepper sauce that, I’ve read, is overtaking mustard and ketchup as Americans’ favorite condiment. Somebody told me that in California, where they make Sriracha, the process was so pungent that the neighbors around the factory complained about the air being contaminated by hot peppers, and the company had to move its headquarters.
But Sriracha isn’t the only new thing on the counter. When you look around, there are influences from all over the world. There’s Tapatio, Cholula, hoisin, curry, Worcestershire and all kinds of concoctions, and they all taste pretty good on a burger or a hot dog.
It makes your head swim just trying to pick out a particular sauce to flavor your food. But this is America, where sauces of all kinds can blend together on a grocery store shelf in a true melting pot experience. This is what makes America great — which is not a political motto, but a truth I learned in grade school.
So if you’re going to strictly identify as a mustard or ketchup person, if your palate is dull and you’re not open to new flavors, you’re missing out.
Hedberg may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 983-2326.