Since the inside of our refrigerator door is almost entirely occupied with dozens of little tiny bottles and jars of sauces, dips, marinades, and condiments.
Here are the favorites we can’t live without:
Instant yeast: I’ve read that these days, almost all yeasts are “instant,” meaning that the yeast doesn’t need to be combined with sugar and warm water to activate before use. My problem with this is that it seems to be completely untrue; my baked items never turn out as well if I don’t activate the yeast separately from the other ingredients.
Concentrated tomato paste: Almost every recipe I have ever used that calls for tomato paste seems to call for half a can…which inevitably leads to the other half of the can sitting in the fridge, drying out and growing bacteria, while I wait several weeks to finally throw it away. A resealable tube of tomato paste solves this problem.
Prepared wasabi paste: Used for cheap supermarket sushi, and occasionally added to the egg yolk mixture for spicy deviled eggs.
Peach freezer jam: Made from our own peaches, this quick jam lasts for about three weeks in the fridge.
8 packets of Taco Bell “Fire” sauce: I learned today that “Fire” may not necessarily be spicier than Taco Bell’s “Hot” sauce, as previously thought, but may instead describe the sauce’s smokier flavor. Used for when we want to make non-Taco Bell items taste more like Taco Bell, which is to say, when we want them to taste like a stomachache and a nap.
Dilly beans: I am definitely a student of the school that adds an entire mixed green salad to a Bloody Mary, because vegetables tend to taste much better after they have been soaking in vodka. Dilly beans provide a snappy, spicy hit, when the drinking is done.
Wickles Hoagie and Sub Relish: I believe I have devoted more than enough space on this website to singing the praises of this mixed pepper and pickle spread.
Strawberry rhubarb jam from Beth’s Farm Market: Beth’s is located in Warren, Maine, and we stop by every time we pass through the Midcoast for fantastic homemade jams, apple cider donuts, and mouth-puckeringly sharp blocks of crumbly cheddar cheese.
Wei Chuan Dumpling Sauce: This sauce, a combination of soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and spicy peppers, enlivens even the worst Chinese takeout steamed dumplings.
TryMe Original Tiger Sauce: A peculiar combination of sweet and sour sauce mixed with cayenne, I use this sauce exclusively on chicken wings. I cook them with tons of butter, before stripping all of the skin and meat from the bone with my fingers, swabbing them through a healthy swipe of Tiger Sauce, and eating them in one bite. The whole scene is disgusting to watch, which makes this a habit I tried to keep a secret from Jillian for a very long time. Not to be confused with the creamy, horseradish-based sauce that you put on pit beef sandwiches or onion rings, which some people also call “Tiger Sauce.” Those people are lunatics.
DennyMike’s Hot ‘n’ Nasty BahBQue & Slathah Sauce: As much as I tend to shy away from heavy, sugary, tomato-y barbecue sauce, and as much as the name of this product makes my skin crawl, I cannot deny that this is some rockin’ barbecue sauce. Made in Maine in small batches and spiked with habanero peppers, this sauce brings a bit of heat to ribs and pulled pork.
Bolthouse Farms Thousand Island Yogurt Dressing: It is with my head lowered in shame that I admit that every time I am eating a salad, I wish it were from the long-shuttered Bonanza Steakhouse, as it existed in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Rockland, Maine in 1984. Sadly, all that remains of the restaurant is a wild tangle of weeds, some boarded-up windows, and cracked pavement. But if you believe that lettuce needs to have ketchup, mayonnaise, and pickle relish on it, this is the only dressing you need. We get the yogurt version, as though that classes it up.
Pickled sliced jalapenos: They’re not just for nachos. Start there, and soon you’ll be adding them to hot dogs, sandwiches, and even pizza. Where does the madness end?
Mustard, both dijon and coarse-ground: Sometimes, on ham, I want a sharp, wine flavor in my mustard. Other times, as when I’m eating roast beef, I’m into more of a coarse-ground situation. It’s cool.
Heinz Tomato Ketchup: Though you can certainly make your own ketchup, it’s never quite the same as Heinz’s classic version. It’s got a chemical signature that stays in your brain, and is the only thing that makes sense on cheeseburgers. Or on macaroni and cheese. Or on meatloaf. I love ketchup. “Oh, but Malcolm,” you say, “it’s just straight sugar.” You’re absolutely right.
Sriracha (“Rooster Sauce”): There’s not a lot we can say about this Thai hot sauce, a paste of chile peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt, that hasn’t already been covered by every food blog in existence. Originally a topping for steaming bowls of Vietnamese phở, the sauce’s use has evolved beyond its original Asian intent, and is increasingly found on chicken wings, scrambled eggs, and on the tables of American cafes. Some people, who speak primarily in cliches, say that “everything is better with sriracha,” which isn’t true. But it’s still delicious.
El Yucateco Green Habanero Hot Sauce: We fell head over heels in love with this hot sauce while we lived in Mexico. We added it to everything, eventually referring to it in conversation as “Green Monster.” Leaving this seriously spicy Yucatecan hot sauce behind was one of the things that made us sad about leaving; what a relief to find it at the Topsham Hannaford.
Cholula Hot Sauce: This is the hot sauce we use when we only want things to be a little spicier. And don’t tell anyone who lives in New Haven, but it does a helluva job dressing up bad pizza.
Frank’s Red Hot Original Hot Sauce: I always keep a bottle of Frank’s on hand. Why? Because when you melt a stick of butter into it, you end up with some of the best buffalo wing sauce around. And that’s the only buffalo wing recipe you’ll ever need.
6. Smiling Hill Farm Organic Milk: I was brought up drinking milk (my mom even had to impose a four glass-cutoff, when I was little). While in Mexico, though, in an area where most people drink either yogurt or the ultra-pasteurized shelf-stable stuff, I lost my taste for it. We still keep a jug around for cooking, cookie-dunking, and because, frankly, we like that it comes in a glass bottle. Secretly, I also still really enjoy a tall glass of cold milk with a bowl of spaghetti, of all things.
Claussen Whole Garlic Pickles and Vlasic Zesty Bread & Butter Chips: While technically not condiments, I feel I should address my pickle problem. See, I like Bubbies Kosher Dill Pickles, with the cloudy brine. Bubbies, however, are hard to find. That means that more often than not, when I buy pickles (every 53 days, perfectly in sync with the national average), I am buying both Claussen refrigerated garlic pickles, whole, or Vlasic “Zesty” bread and butter chips. They’re sweet, they’re spicy, and they’re great for eating with your fingers in the middle of the night while standing with the door to the fridge open.
Bottled lime juice: Because lime juice should be added to every homemade Mexican dish you can think of. Imagine if I had to buy, cut, and use whole limes? Preposterous!
World Harbors Jamaican Style Jerk Marinade: We first discovered this stuff when we got our first apartment together, slapping it on everything we could find after a long, arduous day working at the bong store. We continue to keep it on hand for when we feel like we want to grill, but we don’t necessarily feel like we want to cook. It’s sweet, it’s spicy, and you won’t find anything like it anywhere near Jamaica.
Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise: I know you can make your own mayonnaise. I don’t want to make my own mayonnaise. I want to eat it out of the tub with a rubber spatula, like a fat kid eats frosting.
Baileys Original Irish Cream Coffee Creamer: Because sometimes, I want to feel like I am drinking in the morning, but without the annoying buzz and the lost wages. Also, because I feel like nothing goes with coffee like Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate.