A great condiment should never be an afterthought. It as as much a part of a dish as the central components. Ever eaten a bacon sarnie without red or brown sauce? Rubbish.
Papa John’s Special Garlic Dipping Sauce is the opposite of this. It renders all aspects of the dish inedible. It offends. It should not exist. Every tub of it should be in the ground, the sea or shot far, far, into at the sun.
Now I love food. Properly love it, in all its forms and I’m as happy with MichelIn as I am Mcdonalds. I don’t eat fast food all the time, but when I do I’m generally drunk and my joy in doing so is pure. It is real. I’ll inhale that wondrous, life-trimming elixir, lick the cow grease off my fingertips and always regret if I don’t go large.
But this Papa John’s sauce. This sauce that they give away free with every single pizza, whether you ask for it or no. I ate it three hours ago, and my mouth is still coated with a thick, emulsion paint-like goo: a goo surely bolted from the loins of a sickly goat in its final earth bound action.
I do get what they’re trying to do- It’s ostensibly garlic butter which as we all know is completely delicious, and should be mainlined at every possible opportunity; even if it is a third date, you’re on a 2 4 1 at Pizza Express and both of you are starting late tomorrow.
Expect there’s no butter in this, and less than 2% garlic.
It’s primary ingredient is in fact soybean oil, followed by water and then unsurprisingly salt. I say unsurprisingly, because every mouthful is an indelible blast of sodium. The ingredients don’t list the % that each ingredient is present in sauce, but anyone with a tastebud can see that its salt levels are surely hovering somewhere above red line. I ate the last slice of pizza with some Frank’s Hot Wings sauce to try and blast out the taste -the texture, the memory- but I’m starting to think I’ll never forget.
I guess you couldn’t put actual butter in the tubs because it would just go hard. So that seems fair. And I also suppose that loads of people must like it: not anyone I know, ‘cos when I mentioned it to three Just Eat aficionados, they all laughed and said things along the lines of ‘oh. I can tell you aren’t a regular Papa J eater.’ As though that was a fault of mine they’d chosen to overlook for the sake of our ongoing friendship.
But Papa John’s has over 4,600 restaurants worldwide and turned over 3.3 billion dollars last year. I don’t know if they give it away in every country, but they do in the US and that means a lot of tubs. They would do focus groups and they surely wouldn’t give it away if people weren’t happy splashing their crusts away in it like billy-o, acting like it’s not ruining something so special, so sacrosanct, a foodstuff as pizza. Our pizza. The People’s Pizza. World’s gone batshit.