This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

Arizona vs. Midwestern Etiquette - or why you never "kill the taste" of beef, or beer


I've lived in Arizona, and California, all of my adult life, and I love it here. I grew up in Minnesota, and I left there because I hate snow and cold. Minneapolis is a beautiful city, and that's why I love trees, they just make me feel better. I will always remember the trees. And I will also remember the etiquette, which can sometimes make me twitch.

Today I enjoyed a delicious tamale. I had some fresh salsa in the fridge, and almost forgot to take it out, but I remembered just in time. I love fresh salsa! I also love having a lime in my beer. But I've never been able to bring myself to put barbecue sauce on a steak, or A-1, or catsup.

If you never lived in the midwest, you may not realize how incredibly rude it is to do something to "kill the taste" of a steak. And although tomato-based sauces can be delicious, they were used in the old west because meat tasted pretty bad, and something with some spices and tomatoes could help make it more palatable. That's also true of bad tasting beer, which was made to taste a little better by adding a lime. Of course, that was a long time ago! The steaks you get in Phoenix, or in California, as are as good, and tender, as anything you can get in Iowa (although I'd start a fight if I said that there!) so there's really no reason to kill the taste. The same with beer.

Even asking a restaurant for a bottle of steak sauce is an horrific insult in the midwest. Yes, places do serve it, because a lot of people like it, but for Old-Time midwesterners like me, seeing catsup poured on a beautiful Iowa sirloin is a crime. No, I won't say anything, that's why I'm writing it here. That's how etiquette works, it's a secret system that you can violate without knowing. Yes, a little salt and pepper is fine, but don't get carried away!

I'm sorry to have to break it to you this way, but the last time you put something spicy and tomato-based on a steak that was served to you, you might as well have said, "I can still see the marks where the jockey was hitting it!" and you probably won't be invited back. People are probably still saying "tut tut!" about you. How rude!

I've been stuck in between Midwestern etiquette and Western etiquette, and I often find that no matter what I do, I'm doing something wrong. I love Mexican food, and I can eat very spicy salsa, and that makes people back in Minnesota that I should be wearing a sombrero, and playing in a Mariachi band, and when I hang with my Hispanic friends I feel as if I should be chewing a piece of hay and saying, "Ya shure". Either way, I eat what I like. If someone doesn't invite me back, then I don't want to hang with them, anyway.