See, I hate tomato ketchup. I was always an HP Sauce kind of boy, with tomato sauce seeming too sickly sweet in comparison to the spicy molassesey goodness of its blue-labelled rival. Of course here in the United States, nobody’s really heard of brown sauce, although you can buy it in some specialist shops. A1 Steak Sauce is a passable (though more insipid) equivalent, but you’ll rarely see it in restaurants – and certainly not in your average diner.
Instead it’s tomato ketchup all the way – you could probably get it in your average Michelin-starred restaurant if you asked nicely enough. From incredible steaks to macaroni (&) cheese, there’s nothing that Americans won’t dollop a bit of the red stuff on.
But the prevalence of tomato ketchup – and even the lack of brown sauce – doesn’t bother me anymore. Because every diner in America seems to carry chili sauce on the table. Who needs ketchup on your grilled cheese sandwich when you can numb your mouth with a bit of tabasco? And why would you bother with red sauce on your eggs benedict when you can have fiery hot condiment to disguise the fact that you’re eating the most vile dish ever invented?
Given that most diners operate on a “never mind the quality, look how much we’ve piled on your plate” approach to cuisine, anything that reduces the ability of your tastebuds to function normally has got to be a good thing.
Sadly, even chili sauce can’t make the coleslaw that comes with every diner meal taste better. It’s good, but it ain’t that good.