Today, my friends, I am complaining about condiments.
In America, the way in which you receive your condiments will depend a bit on the sort of restaurant you’re in. If it’s an extremely expensive restaurant, you obviously shouldn’t be asking for condiments at all. If it’s a fairly expensive restaurant, you’ll get a rather nice silver dish cointaining your condiment of choice, with a dainty spoon in it. If it’s a reasonably-priced restaurant, it’ll be the bottle the sauce came in. If it’s a really cheap place or an on-street vendor, it’ll be one of those industrial-sized vats of condiment with a shampoo-style dispenser on the top, and you’re left holding your dinner under it and squirting at it. Consider yourselves lucky, Americans.
In Britain, in a really expensive restaurant, you’ll get the nice silver dish with a spoon. Treasure this because, pretty much anywhere else, you will get a miniature individual sachet of sauce. These sachets are around 8cm long and 2cm wide, and are made of a strange metal/plastic composite originally invented for protecting components of the Hubble Space Telescope. A note on the side says “tear here”. This is sarcastic. You can tell it’s sarcastic, because there is a tiny picture of a pair of scissors. No tearing for you, bucko. The only way these things are intended to be destroyed is by an intergalactic singularity.
To open the sachet, you must grip the corner next to the “tear here” nick as tightly as you can between your front two teeth, and then pull the packet away from your mouth. The packet is covered in your sweat, from the period a few moments earlier when you really thought you were going to tear it with your hands. It is more than a little slippery. You’re going to have to hold it pretty tight. Those space telescope scientists may not know how to make a mirror, but this sucker was designed to withstand re-entry. Get ready for a rough ride.
At this point, your dinner companions may start to pull away from the table or run to the loo. This is normal.
Those telescope scientists no doubt have friends in the rocket business. They all hang around together, joking about how rocket science isn’t all that hard anyway and making puns about quarks. Anyway, their rocket friends will tell you that any container, when squeezed as hard as possible and then split, will propel its contents vigorously in the direction of the breach. These sachets should come with some sort of written warning, and perhaps a set of protective eyewear. At the very least, they should say “not for use in densely populated areas” in clear lettering on the side.
And why do the Brits insist on serving condiments like this? I can only assume it’s because there is empirical evidence that one in five males has, at some time, stirred a pub tomato ketchup container with his John Thomas. Or perhaps some people have a penchant for opening the shared mustard, sneezing in it, then replacing the cap. It’s just the way they roll. Are we honestly that untrusting a society that we fear constantly that other pub-goers have been putting ricin in the tartare sauce? Are we really that germophobe that we can’t stand to eat something that’s been touched by another human being?
And, well, I hate to jump on the popular bandwagon, but isn’t this rotten for the environment? Whenever you ask for ketchup in the UK, you can be sure that they’re not going to give you only one space sachet. They’re going to give you six. And you just try giving back the ones you didn’t use. They’ll eye you with a suspicious look. They certainly won’t touch them. Who knows what you’ll have done with them. Heavens, they’ve probably been up your arse twice.