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A Secret History Of Condiments

First Posted: 09/09/10 01:53 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 06:35 PM ET

Tom Nealon at

Condiment: from L. condimentum "spice, seasoning, sauce," from condire "to preserve, pickle, season" (variant of condere "to put away, store"). As its etymology suggests, a condiment must have a shelf life -- which, until recently, means it was vinegar-, salt-, or sugar-based. Also, it must be at least slightly more complicated, and moister, than a seasoning.

However, though preserved, pickles aren't condiments: pickled beets can be lovely with falafel, but they're still a vegetable. As for the "usage" folks, who define anything added to prepared food as a condiment, they're quite mad: even if you dip fish sticks into it, hollandaise is a sauce, not a condiment.

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Filed by Colin Sterling  |  Report Corrections