(We'll return to the cancer series in a few days.)
I am going to list several popular condiments:
Ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salsa, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, BBQ sauce, pickle relish, hot sauce, and The Oatmeal’s beloved Sriracha.
All of these items, with their diverse flavors and wide range of foundational ingredients, have one thing in common.
Chili peppers? Nope.
Hint: It’s VINEGAR!! (Okay, so that was more than a hint.)
It’s true: I challenge you to go to the supermarket and take a good look at the condiments. You will see vinegar listed in the ingredients in almost all of them, and that’s not even taking into account using various forms of vinegar, itself, as a condiment or critical component of salad dressing: apple cider vinegar, balsamic, red wine, champagne, sherry vinegar, and, of course, no proper fish & chips meal would be complete without a generous splash of malt vinegar to go with the newspaper-wrapped, deep-fried deliciousness.
Apart from these modern condiments, which we use on everything from hot dogs at the ballpark, to corn chips on Super Bowl Sunday, to brats at Oktoberfest (not to mention a snazzy new Sriracha beer!), vinegar has been part of traditional ethnic cuisines around the world for centuries. Of course, we can’t assume that an ingredient or culinary technique is beneficial merely because it’s been employed by many disparate groups for a very long time, but we ought to at least give that possibility some consideration. Some traditions deserve to be mothballed to history (footbinding, anyone?), but when it comes to culinary and gastronomic approaches that persist, there’s probably some good reasons lurking behind them. Perhaps the cooks of yesteryear knew something we don’t?
For a while now, I have been promising (threatening?) to write a post about my newfound love for vinegar, so here goes. And instead of writing shorter blog posts, like I have also been promising, it seems I've gone in the opposite direction with this one. It's long. But that's okay. Take your time and read it in stages if need be. It'll still be here when you get back. If you're a bored-to-death cubicle dweller and I've given you a way to kill ten minutes, you're welcome. (*Insert smiley face.*)