On Poetry and Culture Shock

Sauces (culture-shocking food series)

A man with a taste for comedy of manners once said that France had one religion and a thousand sauces, while England had a thousand religions and one sauce (by which he meant melted butter). I wish I remembered who that person was, and what he would think of Thai peanut butter dip, sour cream, ketchup, bright yellow sweet mustard, and such American favourites.

Spaniards prefer stews, casseroles, and similar dishes that are cooked in its own sauce. And when you serve something that cannot be cooked in sauce, like fries with spicy tomato sauce, the sauce goes normally on top. When you are sharing a platter with a group of friends, the one that pours the sauce on top of everything else is received with a chorus of “HEEEYYYY, not __that__ much!”.

I knew that Americans prefer to dip things. It makes sense for shared platters. But it doesn’t make sense for “proper” meals. Here I order a salad, or a fish-with-rice-and-veggies, and the sauce comes on a little pot on the side. The food looks unfinished that way! Besides, I have been told that the sauce goes on the side because of the calories, the fat, and such, so that I don’t eat it if I don’t want to. But it’s useless, because a spoonful of sauce stirred on food looks like quite a lot, and a spoonful of sauce on a little tray looks as if it’s next to nothing, so sauce on the side is four or five times the amount it would be if served the Spanish way.

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