I opened the refrigerator door and suddenly had this revelation that condiments are like clothing for me. I buy them on impulse. The jar of Holy Schmitt’s cranberry horseradish I picked up at a farmer’s market stand (feeling guilty after eating too many samples) is like the colorful Indian tunic I bought at a street fair. Or there’s the mosaic patterned pencil skirt in blue, maroon and beige from Anne Taylor Loft—so pretty, right? But I barely wear it. It reminds me of my jar of Trader Joe’s pequillo pepper and quinoa spread, opened once a half year ago and never used again. If clothing could grow mold, like condiments can, this skirt would have a thin film of white fuzz on it—and I’d clear out my closet more often.
Just as I find myself reaching in my closet and drawers for the same items time and again—the black and white striped turtleneck, the just-right fitting jeans, the marled funnel neck sweater that hides my middle aged wattle—I habitually reach into the refrigerator for only about three of the twenty five jars and tubs of condiments, and the greatest of these three is…
I know what you’re thinking. Does red pepper jelly remind you too much of that retro 1960s appetizer? I remember my mother taking a block of Philadelphia Cream cheese, dumping spoonfuls of red pepper jelly over it and surrounding it with Ritz crackers. That cream cheese and pepper jelly combo was yummy though, and even the label on my Trader Joe's jar says, “This is the perfect stuff to pour over cream cheese to serve with crackers.”
It’s also the perfect stuff to top off an open-faced sandwich of sharp cheddar cheese, Trader Joe’s sliced prosciutto (one slice), and thinly sliced apples on Orwasher's walnut, raisin pumpernickel bread. I put dab it on slices of the Chef’s leftover grilled sausages or roast chicken, packed into mini ciabatta rolls, or I just spoon it on Jacob’s cream crackers with Brie cheese for a late afternoon snack. I’ve gone through about five jars of this stuff in a year, while Holy Schmitt’s Horseradish, the weirdly good gift of carrot jam, and a nostalgic purchase of Green Goddess dressing are still on the shelf, edging past their sell-by dates. Someday I’ll learn.