So relish is dead, apparently. I read this yesterday in The New York Times.
“McDonald’s and Burger King don’t offer it, and Wendy’s dropped it years ago,” according to Steven Kurutz, the article’s author. A lot of other restaurants also disdain it.
Across the United States, relish is finding its way onto the threatened list apparently, much like Bluefin tuna (though you’d never want to pair that with relish) and Woody Allen films that don’t make you want to cut out your eyeballs with a grapefruit spoon.
The reason for relish’s disappearance is simple: It doesn’t squeeze from bottles the way mustard and ketchup can, the Times reported.
“Unlike ketchup and mustard, relish can’t be easily pumped or squeezed from sealed dispensers at a table or condiment station, said Randy Garutti, the chief executive officer of Shake Shack. Leaving out an open jar of relish could lead to contamination, or just a big mess.
“We keep it refrigerated and put it on ourselves when customers order it,” Mr. Garutti said.
There’s more to it than that, of course. Relish is also a victim of simple discrimination. A couple of years ago, in a squib about The Burger’s Priest – an amazing burger spot in east-side Toronto – I wrote that the burgers are topped “only with simple condiments (mustard, relish, ketchup) instead of the usual jackass stuff.” But a reader took the time to write in to correct me. “You won’t find any relish at the Burger’s Priest! Relish is for hot dogs!”
(I have no qualms with mustard, by the way, but putting ketchup on burgers is strictly for bedwetters, and I'm not talking about kids.)
Good relish has its place, I’d argue. Relish is indispensable, in fact. I buy it at the farmer’s market; my favourite is made by a lady in Prince Edward County, Ontario. It comes in small glass canning jars, with a handwritten label marked “Bertie’s Chow-Chow.” (I realize that chow-chow is taxonomically different from relish, but it’s pretty much the same thing, so get over it.) I put it on burgers for a bit of sourness and tang, and on hot dogs (though I rarely eat those) too.
Relish is also killer in tartar sauce. Amazing tartar sauce is simple. Take a bit of mayo, mix in a bit of good relish plus a few chopped capers if you have them, then salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon.
Serve it with fish, or if you’re eating burgers, do the following. Prepare the tartar sauce, as above, pour into a squeeze bottle and reserve. Apply mustard and relish to your burger, as any right-minded human being does. If anybody complains that you’ve just put relish on your burger, spray them with tartar sauce from the squeeze bottle.
What do you think? Does relish belong on a hamburger?