A little while again a group of friends met and although it wasn’t the reason for the gathering, it turned into a lively discussion regarding condiments. Condiments – ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and such. And it got us thinking about how much people are like condiments.
A walk down the condiments, oils, and dressings aisle of any grocery store will take you past offerings from around the world. And although most of them may be made right here in our country, their origins span the globe. There is soy sauce from China, salsa from Mexico, wasabi from Japan, and Harissa from Morocco. Even the most American of condiments first found their way to kitchens in other parts of the world. Mustard can be traced to Egypt, Mayonnaise to Spain, and Ketchup, the most American of sauces started as a Vietnamese fermented fish sauce that was carried to France then turned into a paste in England before tomatoes were added to the recipe in America. They came from everywhere but have settled comfortably in American homes. Not so different from the group of people you might meet at the company picnic or your children’s soccer game.
Each condiment has a specific base note to its flavor. You might call it the condiment’s personality. For example, there are offerings to add heat, tame the heat, or to be used when you aren’t feeling very spicy at all. Not unlike, the guy who always fosters an argument, the lady next door who is the neighborhood peacemaker, and that fellow down the street who only comes out on nice days.
Not only do condiments resemble people as to their national origins and natural dispositions, but by themselves, they don’t do much on their own to make a meal. In a pinch you can make a sort of a soup out of a tomato ketchup packet and a bowl of hot water, but that’s about all you can do, and that isn’t much of a meal. Likewise, you can try to go through life by yourself, but eventually you’ll find you are living a very bland existence or maybe you constantly end up in hot water with few to come to your aid.
Like condiments, whether we want to admit it or not, by ourselves we cannot do much nor can we ever hope to amount to much. Alone we might be quite pungent like a vinegary yellow mustard, or unforgivingly bold like a habanero pepper sauce, although both remarkably versatile in adding complexity to a dish neither is well tolerated on its own. We need others to control the excess energy we bring or to add focus to our vision. We might also be cool like a buttermilk ranch dressing or sweet like a pineapple salsa. Again, excellent additions to round out the flavors of a complete meal but not something you can count on to carry the weight of that meal. These are the people who bring the creativity to our groups but need others to manage and control the pace and direction of activities.
Something else that makes us like condiments is that to be our best, just as any good sauce must completely blend into the dish, we must fully immerse ourselves into society if we want to see our influence spread to where it can do the most good. Nobody would argue that when you blend spinach and feta with mayonnaise you get the perfect filling to roll into a chicken breast, or that ketchup stirred into a meatloaf mix adds brightness and flavor you can’t get from spices and seasonings alone. When we live, work, and play together, we create bonds that make us something different, something bigger, something stronger than we can be as an individual or as a group of individuals acting alone.
So to all the “Life is like…” comparisons, we offer our latest addition to the list. “Life is like the condiment section of your refrigerator. We come from all over, and each adding something uniquely our own to the whole of society, mixing with others to create an harmonious delicacy that we call our world.”