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Darrell Huckaby - 09/02/09

It was one of the funniest things I ever heard, in my 25 years of coaching high school sports - and that's saying something. My girls track team at Loganville had competed in the region meet at Pickens County and we stopped off at a Burger King for a bite to eat.

This particular Burger King was trying a new concept. Table service. You placed your order at the counter, just like in any other fast food franchise, but then you took your seat and waited for someone to bring your food out to you.

I don't think it caught on.

But there were four or five young ladies, my assistant coach - who was a fairly young lady herself - and me, crowded around a table waiting on our Whoppers and fries. The server came out and brought our drink and food and then asked if we needed any condiments.

A freshman shot-putter, whose name I will not use, for her sake, said. "Lord. No! He's our coach!"

Out of the mouths of babes.

"Condiments," Amy. She asked if we needed "condiments!"

Oops. I let her first name slip. But I'm not going to reveal that her last name was Barnes, not even if you torture me!

I was reminded of that incident while grocery shopping last week. There was a big Labor Day display near the checkout counters promoting all sorts "grillable" foods, accompanied by a big banner reminding - "Don't forget the condiments!" - that was stretched out above more ketchup and mustard than you could say grace over.

Don't forget the condiments - indeed.

Folks can get in a cuss fight over condiments quicker than they can politics and religion. When talk turns to condiments all sorts of cultural and regional biases come into play.

Take hotdogs for instance. If you go to the Varsity and order a Yankee-dog you get a hotdog with just mustard. I suppose that is because that's the way they eat them up North. I couldn't say firsthand. I have been up North but wasn't brave enough to order a hotdog on any of my travels.

Now me, I don't think a hotdog is worth eating unless it has ketchup and mustard - and onions; lots and lots of onions - which is why I spend a lot of time alone after trips to the Varsity. There aren't enough breath mints in the world to disguise the fact that I have been to the Greasy V.

My son, Jackson, thinks that chili is a condiment, as least as far as hotdogs are concerned. Hotdogs are a staple for Saturday lunch at our house, but he just turns up his nose if we don't have a can of Hormel's hotdog chili to go with them. And I have seen people pile slaw and cheese and sauerkraut and relish all over the tops of grilled wieners, too. You see how complicated condiments can be?

And don't even get me started on hamburgers. Now I like mine "all the way," which can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. When I was a small child we used to visit my aunt and uncle, Carl and Lola Wood, down in Umatilla, Fla. Aunt Lola ran a small diner and when you ordered a hamburger all the way at Lola's it came with mustard, ketchup and onions - which happens to be just the way I like my hotdogs.

But when I went to other places and started ordering hamburgers all the way, I got all sorts of things piled on top of my burger and bun. Lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise are the most common toppers, but some people will add a few slices of dill pickle and I have even run across folks who will add a dab or two of A-1 sauce, or grilled onions and peppers and mushrooms, and I ate at a place in California once that served bean sprouts on top of their hamburgers - which I would be willing to bet contained not one ounce of beef but a lot of tofu.

And even Jimmy Buffet likes "his" with Heinz 57.

Last week I stopped by a little sub sandwich shop on Tybee Island and the obnoxious fellow in front of me was asked what condiments he would like on his club sandwich, to which he replied, and I am a witness to this fact, "Just put everything on it."

Now, I don't know if you spend a lot of time in sub sandwich shops but "everything" covers an awful lot of ground in most of them, and the place on Tybee was no exception. The young lady behind the counter started piling on sweet pickles and dill pickles and sweet peppers and hot peppers and then started spreading brown mustard and yellow mustard on the bread before adding oregano and a few other spices as well as oil and vinegar and - well, you get the picture.

But the guy who asked for "everything" started yelling at the sweet young thing behind the counter for "putting all that crap" on his sandwich. When I say he was yelling I mean he was really yelling. He even made her cry.

Which is when I felt compelled to step in and explain to the guy about condiments in the South - and the appropriate way to address Southern women.

All this talk about condiments has made me hungry, so, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go and make myself a sandwich - with everything.

Darrell Huckaby