From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You
The Condiment Queen Clams Up
By Nancy Berk
Condiments are like old friends — highly thought of, but often taken for granted.
I’ve always enjoyed a condiment or two with my meal, but I never realized they were my downfall until “the tartar sauce incident.” A native New Englander, I insist that every return to the shoreline include an encounter with fried whole belly clams. Ask Connecticut friends and family my number one priority when visiting and the unanimous response is “fried clams.” Fried clams are big business in Connecticut. Even in the off-peak hours, people line up at their local clam shacks for those greasy little delicacies. They are made even sweeter by a patch of tartar sauce. It’s not atypical for me to use all of my tartar sauce and move on to my husband’s portion.
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“Why not just have a nice big bowl of tartar sauce?” my husband teased on our last visit. “Then we wouldn’t have to wait in line for a table during tourist season.”
I thought his comment was funny but it was also true. Was I packing on the pounds because of my vacation ration of fried foods, or had I become condiment crazy?
Upon closer examination, my mayo mania was obvious. Horseradish sauce. Blue cheese dressing. Guacamole. Clam dip. Sour cream. When I’m done, you’d be hard pressed to spot a bagel under the cream cheese or a cracker under my artichoke dip. My mantra has always been “Never skip the hollandaise.” In a former life I was a sous chef, or more specifically, a saucier. A saucier is the exotic title for a sauce maker. There is no title, exotic or otherwise, for the compulsive consumer of condiments except maybe “overweight.”
Armed with an awesome set of measuring spoons, I decided to meet my demons head on. Their vital statistics were shocking as well as the discovery that one serving size never sufficiently covers a baked potato. Counting condiments enabled me to see that I could fill the caloric needs of a small nation in one week with my salad dressing preferences alone. Let’s face it, I had gained weight one tablespoon at a time. The proper consumption of condiments requires restraint, measurement, and the ability to walk away. I was in desperate need of retraining. A dollop is acceptable. A gravy boat is meant for all guests, not a party of one. I’m not suggesting that we ignore condiments. Indeed that world would be terribly dull. Is there any better complement to fish than a tangy lemon herb sauce? Creamy garlic butter should be a requirement on a warm hunk of sourdough. No, condiments are not to be vilified. But they are too good to resist and too caloric to ignore. Going into a condiment relationship blindly is waistline suicide. My solution — calculate and enjoy. Indulge in moderation and remember my revised mantra “Not every day’s a hollandaise.”
If you are wondering whether my fried clam epiphany curbed my consumption of tartar sauce, I’ll have to let you know when I return to Connecticut (self-control in Pittsburgh is not a problem because you can’t get fried whole belly clams in the ‘Burgh). Twenty pounds lighter and still craving condiments, I will take my place in line at Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale, Captain’s Galley, or Chowder Pot. But this time, I’m counting on moderation and the ability to clam up when I start to ask my husband for his portion of tartar sauce.
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