From the beginning of civilization man has sought ways to make his food taste better. The discovery of salt created the first communities and the spice trade facilitated the exchange of culture and ideas around the world. From mustards and dressings to chutneys and salsas, condiments reflect humanity in all its wonderful diversity. We are condiments and condiments are us, enjoy!
Strong? Hardly. Reine de Dijon goes back to 1840 and is the third largest French mustard manufacturer in the universe. In 1998 the company was bought by German condiment powerhouse Devely Senf & Feinkost and forced to expand a factory to supply McDonalds: globalism in action. In case you were wondering, the chemical composition of mustard gas has nothing to do with the mustard plant, but refers to the smell of the gas in an impure form. A mustard plaster, however, left on too long can also blister the skin. Got that?
Bar none the most popular mayonnaise in Mexico and found at every torta stand and elote cart from Hermosillo to Oaxaca, usually in huge kilo jars. Those old wive’s tales about mayonnaise spoiling in the heat does not apparently apply to this product, maybe it’s the added lime juice? Oddly, lemons are rare in Mexico but no one knows why.
Just who the hell is Shemp? Certainly not the Shemp of Stooges fame? Why does Aussie owned Food Imagineering go out of its way to mindfuck consumers with over the top patriotic branding? Is there some sort of Rupert Murdoch clone taking over bottling plants? How does a sauce with a stellar list of ingredients (orange juice, molasses, raisin paste, tamarind, anchovies etc.) manage to taste so bland and insipid? For the love of carcass, we need some answers here!
You’ve got to hand it to the Pinoys, they always stay true to their school. This funky elixir originated at that most famous of all Filipino lechonerias: Mang Tomas. Originally a butcher, Mang Tomas made his mark selling roasted pig to the cock fight crowd of La Loma; his sauce soon became as famous as his meat. The brand has since been sold to the Reyes family who run the Aristocrat chain of restaurants in the Philippines. All purpose? Sure, if you’re a liver freak.
This Portuguese/South African chicken franchise is a brand so in love with itself that it’s hard to stomach. Whether denying that chili peppers come from America, hyping the bullshit of “Portugasm” or scamming Muslims this purposely politically incorrect chain is really chickenshit. Their sauces suck too but not as bad as their faux chicken Mozambique. Avoid when abroad or in D.C.
Made in Costa Rica but brought to you courtesy of the Figueroa Brothers of Dallas Texas. Taking a tip from Malcom Gladwell, the brothers have riffed on ketchup (Chipolte, Jalapeno, Banana) while still employing the iconic Heinz bottle shape to calm shaky nerves. Who”ll be the first to bring back traditional Roman ketchup? Gus’ Garum perhaps?
Originally started in Maine to provide mustard for sardine canneries, few associate the yellow stuff with fish anymore. This Raye’s mustard habitually wins “best American classic style” at competitions which is like winning the “best American lager style” at beer events. Be that as it may, Down East Schooner blows away French’s Yellow and brightens up any sandwich or dog. Cool shaped jar as well.
Although currently hyped as a diet aide, its real popularity in El Norte is as an ingredient in Micheladas. One would hope that gabachos would sprinkle some on fruit instead of wasting it in beer. Tajin first commercialized “powdered salsa” in 1985, recognizing an emerging Mexican middle class that would buy a product that in the past was put together on the fly. Tajin has a large global footprint after rebranding in 2001 but ground zero is still the local Mexican fruit stand or taqueria. Seek and you shall find.
Okay, paprika if you must but Spain is where pimentón arrived from the Americas. De La Vera refers to the growing region in Extramadura and is more important than any specific brand of the dried/smoked chile powder. The aristocrat Margit Szechy is largely credited with introducing chile peppers to Hungary and her children bickered over her valuable garden plots when she died. The Turks most likely were the main vectors of the chile into Central Europe after knocking heads with the Portuguese at the Battle of Diu. War might be hell but has often enriched lackluster cuisines.
Maybe it’s the MSG or the ultra fetished packaging that turns on so many to this Japanese condiment. Seaweed extract was the original umani (deep flavor) source in Japan before the Ajinomoto Corporation isolated and patented MSG in 1909. That same year Rose O’Neill introduced the Kewpie Doll comic strip in Ladies’ Home Journal. Hard to believe that two nations that share a love of weird little dolls and mayonnaise could ever have gone to war.