I’m not sure about most of you, but when I get condiments in my takeout bags, whether it’s fast food, or a local restaurant, I tend not to use them. Except for Taco Bell (Diablo sauce represent!), because those packets are liquid gold to me. But even then, they’ll sometimes stuff way too many of those in the bag. I am not complaining about that.
It’s not that I don’t use condiments, like ketchup for my fries, but my instinct is to use whatever I have in the refrigerator first. Those containers are already open anyway. Why bother opening something new?
But then there’s the massive weight on my conscience. I should be reasonable and not toss packaged goods, knowing they’re perfectly edible. My parents used to keep condiment packets from the rare occasions we went to pick up food, but I stayed out of that drawer after I once tried to use a packet of ketchup and it came out a nice rich shade of burnt sienna. I was mildly traumatized.
My fiancée Davida and I moved into our current apartment about two and a half years ago, and since then, this is what we amassed (see photo above). They originally lived in a drawer, but eventually the colony grew too big, and they had to move into a giant takeout container. They sat there, staring at me, wearing down on my conscience. You know it was a lot of packets when I could describe its weight in pounds.
But what could I do with them? The first option was to use those sauces to create a cheffy delight, leveraging my professional restaurant cooking knowledge, as I am generally regarded as the greatest celebrity chef of all time (or a not-so-convincing liar).
But no. Since I am sort of a disgusting garbage person, I went in the exact opposite direction and decided to take the road not advisable: I’d mix them all together into one horrific concoction. Then I’d cook with it. Because I am truly a free spirit.
We sat and counted the packets. This was our entertainment for the evening. I’d say that this was a pandemic boredom activity, but to tell you the truth, we would have been doing this anyway.
- 42 ketchup
- 20 soy sauce
- 9 Taco Bell Diablo sauce
- 9 Taco Bell Fire sauce
- 9 Taco Bell Mild sauce
- 6 sweet and sour sauce
- 5 Chinese takeout mustard (which was originally bright yellow, but was now a darker shade of khaki)
- 2 Popeyes Louisiana hot sauce packets
- 2 honey
- 1 Taco Bell hot
This is a total of 105 packets, according to my English degree. The fact that there were so many ketchup packets did not surprise me. What did surprise me was the sheer volume of soy sauce packets. We very rarely get Chinese takeout, which means they gave us loads of the stuff. Do people really eat that much soy sauce with their egg rolls? Fess up, people.
I’d like to shout out this ketchup packet, which was inflated like a balloon. I was semi-afraid of it being full of botulism, so I left it out of the mix. My guess is that it was a manufacturing error, but I did not want to die before I wrote this magnificent, awards-eligible piece.
I tore the first few packets open with my fingers but quickly grew weary of the task, so instead, I cut all the tops open and I squeezed it all into a large mixing bowl. After a while the kitchen started smelling like sauce. Not one particular kind of sauce, just...sauce. This would be a clue for what it would become later.
I zoned out and looked down after my final packet was emptied into the bowl. This just felt disturbing.
I’m sorry I had to show you this photo, everyone. Don’t worry. This is the worst of them.
After a brief yet vigorous whisking, the result was a viscous reddish brown sauce that smelled very strongly of vinegar. It looked like a thin barbecue sauce, and nearly smelled like it too.
I dipped my finger in it, wished I’d written a will, and took a taste.
I have never tasted anything like it. This was a new flavor, one I am having trouble describing with human words. My mind tried to say it was barbecue sauce, but it wasn’t quite that. It tasted sort of like oyster and hoisin sauce had a spicy, viscous baby, but even that doesn’t describe it. With all that ketchup, you think I would have tasted it, but honestly, if I had been blindfolded, there’s no way I would have sensed the tomato paste. The saltiness was quite strong, almost overwhelming, but that didn’t make this abomination any less delicious.
This was it. I had created Sauce.
As a proper vehicle for Sauce, I decided that pulled pork would be my best bet, so I got a hefty boy from the nearby market.
And in order to cook it, I grabbed my Instant Pot, which mostly remains dormant until fall, and harnessed its destined power of uniting Sauce with Meat. In the above photo it appears as if my Instant Pot is malfunctioning, but it’s actually working fine in person. Perhaps some beings beyond comprehension were trying to tell me something. Or one of you readers are going to tell me it has something to do with the refresh rate of the display and get huffy that I am not an expert in electronics.
Normally, if I were making either a slow-cooked pulled pork in the oven or a smoker, I’d have employed the use of a flavorful rub. But I wanted to celebrate my new friend, Sauce, so I just went with a quick sprinkle of salt and pepper.
I browned the pork, deglazed the pot with a touch of chicken broth, and added two cups of Sauce, leaving the last cup for later, and cooked it for 45 minutes on high pressure.
The result was tender, moist pork that fell apart to the touch. It smelled great. I need to use my Instant Pot more often.
After a quick shred (I hardly had to touch the stuff), I tossed it with a touch of Sauce to give it that je ne sais quoi, and grabbed a squishy white hamburger bun from the pantry.
The result was a really nice pulled pork sandwich, full of the indescribable flavor of Sauce and frugality. Davida said, “I can’t believe this is one of your experiments that I actually want to eat.” We split the sandwich and it was gone in just a few bites between the both of us.
“This is so good,” she said. “I can’t wait for more.”
Later, I snuck off to the KFC drive-thru, bought some of its superior coleslaw, and made more sandwiches topped with the slaw for a really nice late night snack.
So for all of you out there with a hidden cache of sauce packets, I say, throw all caution to the wind and mix them into a nihilistic melange. Just avoid the ones that are inflated like a balloon and you’ll probably have something decent that might actually make a meal.