Mustard, the condiment of champions

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Photo courtesy of vector portal.com

Caroline Hendrix, Opinions Editor

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of a condiment is: “something used to enhance the flavor of food.” I have some trouble with the definition because its scope is very broad.

With this description, spices or dips would be considered condiments. But, I refuse to compare red pepper flakes to mayonnaise. To me, they live in two different worlds. My use of the category “condiment” will include any spread or sauce. 

Under this definition, mustard wins for best condiment. There are three facets in which mustard outcompetes its fellow condiments: in longevity, versatility and subtlety. And while mustard itself is a seed, my article refers to mustard in the spread-like form that we have come to know. 

First, mustard has no doubt withstood the test of time. Encyclopedia Britannica dates mustard’s use in food back to 3000 B.C. To put this into perspective, Insider dates the creation of sriracha only to 1949, Bloomberg dates mayonnaise back to 1756 and the History Channel puts ketchup at 1812. Relatively, these condiments are new compared to their mustard counterpart. New does not necessarily equate to better, but it is important to consider how mustard has maintained popularity for so long. 

A winning condiment must also be multifunctional. Mustard is commonly added to dressings and recipes, including as a marinade, in addition to its more fundamental use as a spread. It also comes in many forms, including yellow, dijon and honey. Therefore, mustard has been able to provide both spiciness and sweetness, which provides more agency to consumers who can decide which is more fit for their food. 

Accordingly, mustard enhances the flavor of food without being too overwhelming. A top-tier condiment must allow consumers to taste the food it is being added to. Mustard can be powerful but, again, consumers can cater the kind of mustard they want to the type of food they are eating. This is sometimes a difficult feat. A Reddit user agreed when they made a thread about mustard, writing that it “brings out the flavors of the meat and will pair well with other condiments on a sandwich, sub, burger, etc.”

Other top contenders are ketchup and sriracha. Ketchup is great on most things, which made choosing the best condiment all the more difficult. There are two drawbacks to ketchup. The first is that it has become too versatile in its spread form. Two Reddit users admit to using ketchup for french toast and donuts. Just as a condiment needs to be utilized to its full potential, it also needs to be limited to a certain degree. The second disadvantage is ketchup’s lack of versatility in regards to its use as an ingredient in recipes. In order to be the best condiment, ketchup needs to be more than an add-on. 

Sriracha is also a top-three condiment. There are many kinds of sriracha that vary in hotness, allowing consumers to have more agency about how spicy they want to make their food. But just like ketchup, it has changed since its introduction into the condiment market. It is now marked by high sodium and sometimes, high sugar. Conversely, mustard brands are typically clean and actually include some benefits, like antioxidants and essential vitamins. Its health benefits might lend itself to mustard originating from seeds off of a plant. 

It is still important to eat everything in moderation, but when it comes to condiments, don’t hold back on the mustard. 

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