When I was a child, my father worked nights, and I can the remember the first time he came home late with that iconic green and white bag of Harold’s Chicken. I smelled mild sauce through the bag the moment he entered our home. It was an aroma I would encounter over and over again, all the way through my adulthood. One whiff and it instantly brings me back to childhood.
Takeout food from the likes of Harold’s and Lem’s is usually built the same: Inside a paper bag or styrofoam container, the first thing you find is a slice of white bread. It's then topped with a tangle of fries, followed by a protein (whether it's a hot link, ribs, or fried chicken). I like to have mild sauce poured over my entire entrée, because the sauce is a crucial part of a multisensory journey. On top, the chicken is crispy, and the sauce acts mainly as a flavor-enhancing aromatic. The fries underneath, however, begin to soften after being blanketed by the piping-hot chicken and mild sauce. At this moment, my sauce experience begins to change. The mild sauce becomes a texture enhancer to the once-crispy fries. Then there's the white bread, used to sop up any remaining sauce (and truly fill you up, if you're not full already).
Some people insist on ordering their sauce on the side, but to me, having sauce drenched on everything is the connective thread. Come down to the South Side of Chicago and you'll hear this phrase uttered multiple times a day: “Six wings with mild sauce and salt and pepper” or “tip-link combo, mild sauce.”