Condiments: What's Your Favorite?

Condiments are as much a part of our fare as the food itself. Condiments include relishes, sauces like ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise or spicy salsas from Mexico, curries from India and Sriracha, the newest of the condiments created in the United States. They accompany served dishes, are usually found on the table with salt and pepper and can be added ingredients in recipes. They are easily made in the kitchen, adding to the variety.

 Relishes come in a myriad of forms.  The most common is sweet pickle relish, which is made with cucumbers and is usually added to hot dog and hamburgers. Relishes can be made with cranberries, peppers, zucchini, onions, olives and tomatoes. The possibilities are almost endless and each accompanies a different dish. There are many recipes available to make a unique condiment.

Ketchup, or catsup, was created in China in the 16th century when tomatoes were introduced to the country. The British incorporated the condiment into their fare in the 18th century and brought it to America, where it became the condiment that is used today. This spicy condiment uses tomatoes as its base with vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper, and is a favorite on a hamburger.

Mustard is another popular condiment that originated in ancient Greece and was created from mustard seed. This ancient plant can be found throughout Asia and Europe and has many different recipes, each complementing specific dishes. French mustard was made into a paste in 1350 and many varieties were created from this recipe.

Horseradish is a condiment originally found in the area that is now Germany and spread throughout Europe. It is a root and the leaves are used in salads. It is a favorite condiment in British fare used by scraping the root over oily fishes like salmon or mackerel and on the side with boiled beef. It is prepared by grating the root and adding vinegar and some sugar. In 1869, H. J. Heinz commercially processed horseradish and marketed it in clear bottles. Today the consumer can find a variety of prepared horseradish products.

Salsa originated in the cultures of the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas who used a combination of tomatoes, chilies and other spices. These ancient peoples cultivated chilies and tomatoes they called “tomatl” into many varieties.  Each created a different salsa. The Mexican immigrants brought the condiment to the United States and today salsa is enjoyed in its many forms. In 1947, salsa was first commercially produced in San Antonio, Texas.

Curry is a mixture of many spices and comes in a variety of flavors and combinations, each used for specific dishes. In its powdered form Indian cookbooks refer to it as “garam masala” and the term curry is derived from the Tamil word “kari,” meaning black pepper.  Each region of India has its own special recipe as does every Indian household. Pre-mixed curry was first sold at the end of the 19th century in Indian towns and later was commercially produced by an Englishman named Sharwood.

One of the newest additions to the list of many condiments is Sriracha Sauce. It was created in the early 1980s by a Vietnamese immigrant who settled in Los Angeles, California, named David Tran. He could not find a hot sauce that he found satisfactory and created Sriracha Sauce that he named after a local hot sauce in Sri Racha, Thailand. It became a popular sauce for Asian cuisine and has been adapted into American fare.

Condiments are an essential part of the world cuisines and add interesting flavors to recipes.  They can also be a great way to sneak in some extra nutrients or antioxidants if you use the right ingredients!  Why don’t you try experimenting with some new condiments?  You might find something you like.