Another brave soul has come forward to work through their memories of growing up with a dislike of tomato sauce. I spoke with podcaster and film maker Paul Anthony Nelson, who co-hosts the film podcast Hell is For Hyphenates. It's a program I've never been asked to be a guest on, despite knowing everything about the each of the Carry On films. I guess bawdy English comedy will continue to be grossly underrepresented in the media. I caught-up with Paul and was given a butter soaked view of the 80s.
Thanks for joining me in this vat of tomato sauce. I appreciate you bringing your own wetsuit.
Best I could do at short notice. The Hazmat Suit’s at the dry cleaners.
What is your first memory of not liking tomato sauce?
Primary school sausage sizzles, I think? Or a perhaps the kind of idyllic, balmy, use-a-rubbish-bin-as-stumps-backyard-cricket Sunday barbeque that was de rigueur for Aussies in the ‘80s. The accusatory looks from relatives at my sauce-disgust burn deep, even today. It may have been the first time I realised I was different from the rest of my brood.
Have you ever pretended to like sauce?
I only like it on burgers, probably because it’s smothered by so many other factors. Otherwise, can’t say I did. My ruthless lack of tolerance for food of many kinds is famous in my family. I’d just refuse to eat them. As a kid, I practically stared at a toasted sandwich for two hours because it had ham in it. There’s a reason I’m not six-foot-seven today.
As a non-sauce eater, what are some of the difficulties you’ve faced?
People would get flabbergasted at my refusal. The phrase “Whaddya MEAN?” would come up, a lot. But, even more so, the outwardly-caring but actually-patronising “Are you SURE?” would get a run. For my entire childhood, right to late high-school. I mean, Great Caesar’s Ghost, it wasn’t like I’d asked for Spaghetti Bolognese minus Bolognese sauce, right? THERE IS A TASTY SAUSAGE IN THERE, YOU KNOW. And bread. I’ve always loved bread.
Do you dislike any other condiments?
Now, here is where my prejudice shows its true face. I’m really not a condiment guy. You can throw ‘em all off the Westgate Bridge. Same goes for dips. I recently acquired a taste for salsa, which is awesome, as it’s both a condiment AND a dip. What a wonder! But, yeah, get all that other crap off my nachos.
I’ve had this pain in my shoulder for a couple of days. Should I get it checked out?
I’m sure it’s fine. It’s probably cancer.
What was it like for you at sausage sizzles growing up?
Doubly fraught – because not only do I hate tomato sauce, I loathe loathe loathe butter or margarine spread onto untoasted bread. Plain white bread, slathered in sickly, spew-inducing butter? One valiant sizzled sausage couldn’t POSSIBLY soak all that up. So they’d screw me over there, too. I recall often craning my head to the side of the barbecue, searching for the loaf of still-unbuttered bread that would be my salvation. Woe be to the volunteers who’d butter hundreds of slices in advance. But if they didn’t – if I could slip away into the sun with my bread and sausage unfettered – now that would be a day.
What advice do you have for youngsters who think sauce tastes like sugary, tomato poop?
It gets better. It really does. (Life, not sauce. Sauce remains terrible.) There will come a day when people will just hand you a pie with an unpoured packet of sauce… and you can hurl that garbage into the bin it deserves. Sure, you’ll be wasting plastic packets and doing some kind of catastrophic harm to the environment, but every disposal will feel like a notch of self-esteem you’re winning back.
Anything else you’d like to add? Do you have a coffee table book or operetta coming out that you’d like to plug?
My friend Lee Zachariah and I host a monthly podcast about movies and filmmakers called HELL IS FOR HYPHENATES, which can be found at www.hellisforhyphenates.com, as well as on iTunes and Stitcher, and has nothing to do with tomato sauce. Except when some filmmakers used tomato sauce as blood. And even then, chocolate sauce is better, especially when your film’s black and white. Or corn syrup with red food dye. So tomato sauce is still a shit option.
Thanks for your time.
I’ll bill you. This sauce is seeping into my flippers.
My Melbourne International Comedy Festival show Sauce opens March 26, 6pm at the Portland Hotel. Come check it out, you saucy bastards.
And in the next Hell is for Hyphenates, Paul and Lee will be joined by Pollyanna McIntosh to discus her filmmaker of the month - Nicole Holofcener