The Devil's Condiment

It is ubiquitous, found on every table in every diner, on every fridge door across this great nation, especially in our humble heartland, where it is considered a spice, even a vegetable. It goes by many brand names and more than a few spellings: a c or a k, an e or an a. Yet I dare not speak its name, lest you be tempted.

I speak of that which 'goes with anything', whose subtle, sour-sweet essence taints, corrupts all it touches: crispy steak fries, scrambled eggs, the most cherished family recipe meatloaf. Even ice cream is not immune to desecration...

It is subtle, devious infiltration personified. You think me insane, gentle reader. But think hard on this--there is a Devil's Hole, Slide, Advocate. Why not Condiment? As they say, the Devil's greatest trick was to convince people that he didn't exist. And the best hiding place is often out in the plain sight; how much more obvious than right there next to the salt and pepper, a mere hands-breath away? What better way to enslave our souls than through the weakest link in our defenses-our famously gluttonous appetites?

And the looks one gets when one refuses the unholy tincture; the glance askance from the waitress, the glare from the short order cook as he peers menacingly over his counter. This followed by uncomfortable guffaws, coughs and shrugs from one's companions, then their furtive sliding across the booth, distancing themselves from the malcontent, lest they be marked as well. It is considered freakish, traitorous, damnably un-American not to relish the stuff, to slather it on at every opportunity.

Yet you, with your extra packets in your glove compartment 'just in case', may have already been lost. I cannot save you from yourself; I can only implore you to try other sauces, Tabasco, exotic mustards, anything, but please resist the elixir that is The Devil's Condiment.

About the author:

Daniel McArdle is a freelance graphic designer/trailing spouse/kept man living in Hong Kong with his wife and two daughters. He presently finds solace in short story rejections, and on soccer pitches, exhibiting a surprising knack for goal. He also amuses himself by correcting those who believe him to be Canadian (he is not, but he generally takes it as a compliment). His latest work can be found in print and online at sites like Yankee Pot Roast, Hobart, and Monkeybicycle. His expat ramblings can be found at