Hold the mayo; hold the freedom
September 8, 2010 8:31 AM   Subscribe

You can tell how strongly a man or woman yearns for freedom by counting the condiments in his or her refrigerator. - Tom Nealon's series on the secret history of condiments.
posted by nickrussell (38 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think he's confused freedom with flavour. It's a common mistake.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:33 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


the secret history of condiments

The DaVinci Coleslaw
posted by Joe Beese at 8:37 AM on September 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


File under "astounding revelations had while watching Fight Club while stoned."
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:38 AM on September 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


They may take our lives, but they'll never take OUR FREEDOM FLAVOUR!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:39 AM on September 8, 2010


Worcestershire Sauce is the condiment of the gods and makes any watery stew by yer granny taste edible. Can't say I like being reminded it's made of fishies though.
posted by shinybaum at 8:40 AM on September 8, 2010


I recently had to buy a case of Plochman's mustard for my son via the internet because all our grocery stores mysteriously stopped stocking it. He hates French's (obvs!). Meanwhile I have 3 different styles of mustard in the fridge right now, plus several other condiments.

The rest of my family eats ketchup, which I did not slog through the swamps in 'Nam for.
posted by DU at 8:43 AM on September 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Americans are terrible obsessed about their condiments.
posted by edgeways at 8:44 AM on September 8, 2010


But surely Wrstrshr Sauce is a sauce and therefore cannot be a condiment, as the two are of distinctly separate classes.

(Cf. hollandaise)
posted by Sys Rq at 8:45 AM on September 8, 2010


This graph would be pretty scary if the data collection methodology were at all possible.
posted by DU at 8:48 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't understand the quoted thesis; more condiments means more desire for freedom, or less?

This whole article seems a bit of a mess, like a Cracked list minus the bulleting numbers, and on one page instead of two.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:49 AM on September 8, 2010


No sex without condiments!
posted by chavenet at 8:49 AM on September 8, 2010


I'd use nam pla prik manao on cereal if my wife would let me.
I never thought of this as my soul's cry for freedom.
Take that, wifey-poo!
posted by Seamus at 8:49 AM on September 8, 2010


That graph is where I started laughing and thinking, "Shit, I can make up stuff, too!"
posted by Seamus at 8:50 AM on September 8, 2010


I prefer to judge a man by the type of mustard he keeps in his car.
posted by Flashman at 8:51 AM on September 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Whoops, looks like they took your freedom.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:54 AM on September 8, 2010


Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce sold in the USA differs from the British recipe. [...] The main differences are the use of distilled white vinegar in place of malt vinegar, and high fructose corn syrup in place of sugar.

There is nothing so sacred that you would not replace the sugar with HFCS, is there. Damn.
posted by shinybaum at 8:54 AM on September 8, 2010


As much as we would love to have yet another way to classify ourselves, the number of condiments we have in our refrigerator is not going to work.

The jar of Chinese Black Bean Sauce in the bottom compartment of my refrigerator door has several reasons for being there, none of them related to my burning desire for freedom (or for social justice, and end to all wars, and more Thelonious Monk on the radio).
posted by kozad at 8:54 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


The only condiment I have is Gulden's spicy mustard, and I don't intend to buy more condiments because I'm planning to move to another country. At a loss as to what this says about my desire for freedom.
posted by inmediasres at 9:01 AM on September 8, 2010


Plus: 38 condiments in this guy's refrigerator? There should be something in the DSM-IV about that.
posted by kozad at 9:09 AM on September 8, 2010


Yeah, sorry. A buffet of disparate condiments don't "represent and encourage the democratic power of the individual to decide how to eat." They represent and encourage lazy cooking.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:10 AM on September 8, 2010


They've got a pic of what I think of as "Three Crabs" brand fish sauce in there. It's great stuff, a prince amongst fish sauces (or at least amongst the ones I can get here). It's pungent but not overwhelming, it's got a complex flavor that keeps developing in the mouth, and it's not excessively salted. Stuff is just great for either fresh dips, or cooking.

Also, Three Crabs has the added virtue of having it's ingredients listed in Khmer. So I get to practice my reading each time I'm preparing south east asian food.

But there's a problem. One of those ingredients in Khmer is Trey Kampot. On one level I know that just means "fish from the town of Kampot".

But on another level I know it as the name of a deadly poisonous freshwater puffer fish from the Mekong river.

And that always puts a bit of a downer in my dipping sauce.
posted by Ahab at 9:10 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Western world saw a dizzying increase in condiment choice even as condiments became increasingly homogeneous. The forces of Middlebrow demanded that highbrow sauces be dumbed down into so-called condiments like commercial mayonnaise and bottled salad dressing."

For a time I was the personal assistant (errand boy) for one Gloria Emerson, author, journalist, and New York Times war correspondent well known for her condemnation of the Vietnam War.

I will never forget taking her shopping at the local grocery store. At one point she stood, quite honestly, in horror, mouth agape, staring at a wall of salad dressing. After some moments she exclaimed, "Look at all of this! What is wrong with this country?"

All this time I thought she was expressing something along the lines of Sys Rq's comment above, albeit on a larger and more earnest scale; it seemed obvious enough to me that she was decrying our collective national misstep, having confused freedom with flavour. But perhaps she was really bemoaning "the forces of Middlebrow demand[ing] that highbrow sauces be dumbed down into so-called condiments like commercial mayonnaise and bottled salad dressing."

As DU said, he and his buddies "did not slog through the swamps in 'Nam for [ketchup]."

(Or ranch dressing, I think it's safe to assume.)
posted by eric1halfb at 9:25 AM on September 8, 2010


When I was a child I used to dare myself to smell the bottle of Maggi fish sauce in the cupboard.

Granted, my dad had a habit of opening jars, using a spoonful or two then putting them back in the cupboard 'til well past their use-by date (NB: doing this with mayonnaise that has flecks of tuna in is a BAD idea) but that was particularly rank.
posted by mippy at 9:27 AM on September 8, 2010


The rest of my family eats ketchup, which I did not slog through the swamps in 'Nam for.

John Kerry did!
posted by Sys Rq at 9:28 AM on September 8, 2010 [11 favorites]


Entertaining but I will not be investing based upon the number of condiments in my friends refrigerators. I still do not understand the relationship between the yearning for freedom and condiments. And I actually read the article and looked at the pictures. If anything, it seems to me a devotion to using and collecting condiments is a surrender to poorly prepared, flavorless or slightly old food. It is a statement of submission and convenience rather than freedom. But do not take away my Worcestershire.
posted by rmhsinc at 9:31 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile I have 3 different styles of mustard in the fridge right now

Amateur! I have seven:

Brown (Gulden's)
Yellow (French's)
Dijon (Grey Poupon)
Grainy Dijon (Grey Poupon)
Honey (not sure what brand)
Horseradish (Inglehoffer's)
Maille "Old Style" (the kind that is basically just mustard seeds and vinegar)

FREEEEEEEEEDOMMMMM!!!!!!
posted by briank at 9:59 AM on September 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess I hate freedom. All I have is intended to be used during creating the dish or as part of it, and wouldn't be found on the table to add later.
posted by Phalene at 10:10 AM on September 8, 2010


So my mother-in-law is notorious for having food in her pantry/fridge that expired some time ago. Eventually, her daughter came over and cleaned it out, making a trail of expired shame on her mother's countertop. Some things in the pantry were more than two decades expired, which is pretty outstanding, and obviously these all needed to go in the trash. Before she threw 'em out, however, she took pictures, then took her mother on a tour of the expired food.

During this expiration date showcase, she showed her mother a bottle of expired mustard. Her mother complained, "Why? I'm sure it's still good. It's just a bottle of brown mustard. Brown mustard doesn't go bad!" to which her daughter replied, "Mom, it's French's."
posted by davejay at 11:27 AM on September 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


One of the highlights of my year to date was visiting the National Mustard Museum.
posted by dhartung at 11:30 AM on September 8, 2010


Tocqueville was obviously talking about tomato ketchup.

I did not know!
posted by drlith at 12:02 PM on September 8, 2010


This Is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plum sauce
that was in the ice box

and which
you were probably
saving
to fight tyranny

Forgive me
It was delicious
so revolutionary
and so subversive
posted by drlith at 12:17 PM on September 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't understand - is lots of condiments a sign of complacency or a sign of freedom?
posted by filmgeek at 12:24 PM on September 8, 2010


dhartung, I loved the Mustard Museum; the proprietor likes to tell the story of when he was going to be on Letterman, and brought some of his favorite mustards with him, including the infamous Royal Bohemian XXX Horseradish Mustard. Dave thought that he could take anything that Levenson threw at him, and insisted on sampling a teaspoon of the stuff instead of a tiny sample spoon (the kind they have at the store is about the same size as a Baskin-Robbins sample spoon; when I tried some of the XXX, it was like a bomb went off in my sinuses). Due to Dave's reaction, the segment was killed. I got a jar of the stuff for an uncle of mine who grows and grinds his own horseradish, and he was rendered nearly speechless when he tried it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:26 PM on September 8, 2010


I don't understand - is lots of condiments a sign of complacency or a sign of freedom?

Freedom breeds complacency.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:31 PM on September 8, 2010


The author's tongue is so deep within his cheek he cannot taste the mustard, whether French's or Dijon...
posted by dash_slot- at 12:46 PM on September 8, 2010


peachfuzz: Yeah, sorry. A buffet of disparate condiments don't "represent and encourage the democratic power of the individual to decide how to eat." They represent and encourage lazy cooking.

No doubt.

Though since I don't do most of the cooking at home, if I started complaining about the lack of condiment selection, I'd definitely have more freedom. As in being told I'd have the freedom to make my own damn dinner.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:56 PM on September 8, 2010


My step-father has the world's largest condiment collection. He brings home condiments like they are rare jewels, to be kept in the refrigerator as proof of his prowess and cunning. I never thought about this much (other than the fact that it takes up a lot of real estate in the fridge) but clearly he's yearning to break free of the great oppressor.
posted by sonika at 2:25 PM on September 8, 2010


Barbecue sauce is both a sauce and a condiment, depending on its method of use. In my house, it is mostly a condiment (particularly on corned beef hash and eggs scrambled together.) But occasionally a sauce (as in baked country style boneless spareribs.)

I am thinking the rigid and deterministic separation of sauces from condiments is a grievous error.

Hint: if it can be substituted for ketchup or Worcestershire sauce, then it's a condiment. Except in those cases where it's not.
posted by warbaby at 6:33 PM on September 8, 2010


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