The Dining Habit Americans Are Most Embarrassed By, According To Instacart

Are we alone in thinking that eating out should just be fun? And yet, depending on who you're eating with, your night out might end up a social event fraught with worry over ordering the wrong thing the wrong way. (Even if that's just the way you like it!) 

Some of the moves deemed embarrassing to do at restaurants include annoying chefs by asking for your expensive steak to be cooked to well done, or irritating waitstaff with requests for one (or many) substitutions. Beyond bugging the restaurant staff, there's also the worry that comes with who you're dining with: High-brow clients, first dates you want to impress, or foodie friends. In other words, there can be anxiety that people might look down on what we order and how we eat it. 

A recent poll conducted by grocery delivery site Instacart reveals a very specific kind of dining-out social pressure that we put on each other: Condiment shaming. And before you scoff, just think for a second. How would you react if your dining companion spread mayonnaise on their burger? Or dunked their wood-fired pizza slice into a puddle of ranch dressing? Now you're getting the picture. The Instacart poll shows that Americans are actually pretty self-conscious about letting their fellow diners see not only which condiments are their favorites, but how they use them. 

People are noticing (and judging) our condiments

An Instacart poll from August 2 listed the most popular condiments in several U.S. regions, with hot sauce dominating the West and mayonnaise holding strong across Central areas. Mustard and ketchup are battling it out for the top spot in East Coast regions, and there are barbecue sauce and relish devotees, too. 31% of participants wouldn't eat a sandwich without some kind of sauce on it. So clearly Americans love their condiments, and yet, are embarrassed to enjoy them in front of a potentially judgy audience. 

According to the poll, many participants confessed to loving mac and cheese topped with ketchup, but 48% say they won't eat this in front of others. Dipping French fries into mayonnaise is another condiment indulgence noted by participants — 34% wouldn't dare do it while eating out. Two other condiment-food pairings that participants would rather keep to themselves are topping eggs with ketchup and eating pizza with ranch dressing.

As The Guardian shared, eyeing each others' food choices is just one way we try to figure one another out. The problem, they say, is that what we eat is, "so personal it can feel like quite an attack when someone disses your food." So when media like the Chicago Tribune declare that ranch dressing is "disgusting", and chefs hate ketchup so much it's banned from their restaurants (via Mel Magazine), it makes sense that we'd rather be home alone with our mayonnaise-dipped fries!