What Does Your Condiment Choice Say About You?

How do you like your burgers and Dogs?

Aunt Millie's Hamburger Buns

Now, there’s a loaded question. The server probably just means what temperature you want the hamburger meat to be, from well done to rare, but your mind wanders.

“How do I like my burger?” you ask yourself. If you weren’t limited to this particular burger at this particular moment in this particular restaurant, if you could have any burger at all, what would that burger be like?

Picture an evenly toasted Aunt Millie’s hamburger bun. It’s fluffy but substantial. It isn’t going to collapse when you spread some serious condiments on it. And it tastes like summer.

Condiments are often an afterthought, but you know the ketchup/mustard/mayo/aioli family are important players in the burger game. A burger heavy on the ketchup reminds you of your childhood, grabbing a burger and taking a big bite while running around the backyard. The ketchup spills out onto the grass, and your mom yells at you to use a plate. Ketchup tastes so good, though: salty and a little sweet. You lick it off your fingers, but your mom stops you from eating it off the grass.

Mustard inches you toward adulthood. It’s tailgating at high school football games in your best friend’s dad’s pickup truck. It’s “just mustard, please” because ketchup is for kids and you’re definitely not a kid. It’s tangy and bitter but it works. The hamburger your buddy cooked on a portable grill in this parking lot is a little dry, and the mustard saves it. You’re glad it’s there, and you chew and nod with sophistication.

Hey, cool kid. You have mustard on your face.

Mayo is ageless. If it’s your destiny, you’re born putting mayo on your burgers and you stay that way your whole life. If you’re not genetically predisposed to mayo on burgers, you likely will never find yourself making that particular food choice.  

Aioli is a grown up’s condiment. It’s having your friends over to see the grill you just bought new with your own money. It’s standing around the grill drinking wine from glasses and talking about what you’re reading and how the traffic downtown is getting worse. It’s sweet potato fries roasting on the rack above the burgers while your friends sit in your patio furniture that isn’t just chairs from the living room that got too ratty for the inside. The burgers are ready just as the sun is starting to set, and as your guests are assembling their plates, you point to the small bowl next to the salt and pepper. “Don’t forget the aioli.”  

“Medium,” you tell the server today, knowing this burger can’t possibly live up to the one that’s in your head.