Before I get to the great au jus bottled sauce lie that was perpetrated on your narrator, I need to admit something.

I am a man of simple tastes. Put before me a roasted quail glazed with tarragon butter, infused with a cayenne-turmeric Mexo-Indo fusion stuffing, and I won't be able to tell you whether the tarragon was foreign or domestic. It's embarrassing. I know a Frenchman who can sip three grams of red wine and tell you which side of the river the grapes came from, the time of day they were harvested and the average length of a baguette sold in the nearest village.

"How do you know that?" I'd ask, astonished, and he'd shrug in the Gallic fashion. Turns out it's printed on the label. But in French, so.

He did have good taste, though, which put my meager palate to shame. But I think having a poor palate makes me happier. The person who is more easily satisfied by food does not go into any meal braced for disappointment. The person who can tell if the three grains of saffron used in the risotto are older than 147 days always will be dismayed.

I have a variety of hot sauces, the hallmark of the American male with a debased and paved palate. They run the gamut from Cruel to Piquant. As the saying goes, curry in haste, repent at leisure, usually about 14 hours later.

One of them actually has "celery" on the ingredient list. Celery. The weakest of all vegetables. Putting celery in a hot sauce is like putting a 3-year-old in the starting lineup of an NFL defensive line.

The worst of my sauces will make you gasp as though you're gargling scorpion claws; the best just adds "heat," because you equate "dining" with "prickly scalp sweat."

The mainstays of my upbringing were hot dish and Jell-O embedded with entombed fruit, so maybe all this is making up for lost time. I eat Indian food that makes me bleed internally, and think: I may be dying, but at least I know I'm alive.

So, I'm no gourmand. But. I know when a sauce is lying to me.

Which brings me to the other day. I made a French Dip supper. Easy, quick, good for a cold. You've got your crusty bread, your roast beef and a sauce for dipping, the au jus. This is French for "with juice," but no one ever thinks of orange juice as "jus," do they? No one sets down a plate of pancakes and a glass of OJ and says, "Here, flapjacks au jus." We know that "au jus" is bovine broth and is used only in this context.

We dipped our sandwiches into the dish of au jus, and we both made a face of surprise.

"Is this ... soy sauce?" my wife asked, which was a perfectly reasonable question from someone who has endured my cooking for 34 years.

Don't be ridiculous. Soy sauce is for pouring over rice like a debased Westerner with no idea of its true purpose in the cuisine we call "Asian," as if such a term could accurately encompass the rich diversity of the cuisines of an entire continent. This, I announced, is au jus.

Granted, the reason I thought it was "au jus" was because the label said it was. It promised, "Delicious with a roast beef French dip sandwich."

Then I checked the ingredients. Water, of course. Then: soy sauce!

I'm sorry, but this breaks the social compact. I could've poured it down the drain and chalked it up to experience, but I am a man of principle, and more pertinent, a man with a column to write, so I considered returning to the store to demand satisfaction.

Here's the problem with taking it back, though. It literally says "soy sauce" as the main ingredient after water. If I marched up to the desk and said, "This au jus fluid tastes like soy sauce," the clerk would look at the label, then at me and say, "So? And?"

"It doesn't taste at all like the au jus we've come to expect. It lacks that crucial meat note."

"I see. And do you have a signed letter from the International Au Jus Council that codifies precisely what it should taste like?"

"Don't get high-handed. I've been around. I know what au jus should taste like, and this isn't it. Look, someone in your organization is trying to undermine your sauce reputation. For all you know, he's back there putting cherry juice in your ketchup. No one would know unless someone like me spoke up."

As it turned out, they gave me my money back. But first they told me that soy sauce was a component of au jus, and while I agreed in the sense that violas are part of an orchestra, this was way too soy-forward.

Of course, the next time I made "Asian" and wanted soy sauce for the rice and discovered we were out, I used the real au jus I bought after I returned the pretender. Didn't notice the difference at all.