under the file name “A Condiment Is A Condiment Is a Condiment. Is A Condiment A Condiment?”
The word sauce comes from an ancient root word meaning “salt,” which is the original concentrated flavoring, pure mineral crystals from the sea. Our primary foods [ . . . ] are pretty bland, and cooks have found or invented a vast range of ingredients with which to make them mores flavorful. The simplest are seasonings provided by nature: salt, pungent black pepper and chillis, sour juices of unripe fruits, sweet honey and sugar, distinctively aromatic herbs and spices. More complex are prepared condiments, many of them foods preserved and transformed by fermentation: sour and aromatic vinegar, salty and savory soy sauce and fish sauce, salty and sour pickles, pungent and sour mustard, sweet and sour and fruity ketchup. And then there are sauces, the ultimate composed flavorings.”
-Harold McGee On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, 2004.
“condiment, n. Thing used to give relish to food. Hence ~al. [f. L condimentum (condire – pickle)]”
–The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 5th edition, 1974.
i just ate what would probably have been the best sandwich of my life, had i not already eaten such a sandwich numerous times already over the course of the past two and seven tenths of a decade, and that is largely the point – it was not merely a delicious sandwich, but a sandwich which (sandwhat what?) conjures up in the mind and on the palate a whole history of sandwiches that tasted more or less the same and imparted a comparable sense of satisfaction and wellbeing. a sandwich that draws upon a strong lineage.
i speak of course of the BLT.
more or less. it’s been a long time since i’ve eaten bacon, my lapses and furtive forays into carnivory notwithstanding, but it lives on in vivid, defiant, seductive detail in my tongue’s brain’s heat – a sort of oversaturated image of a myth of a meat. and it’s gotten my thinking about the BLT, and how it is that a creature lacking in bacon could, and can, and still continues to, feel like a BLT, in the face even of the acknowledgement that a similar sandwich lacking in tomato or lettuce would never come across as convincingly BLTy.
(sometimes one tries to reproduce the bacon- with tempeh or tofu or smokey mapley tofu or smoked coconut or something or something, but sometimes one contents oneself with sautéed onions with an appropriate amount of black pepper and soy sauce, and doesn’t feel particularly the short shrifted for it)
fortunately, i don’t really care about the answer to this question, i care merely about deliciousness.
Bread (turned into toast, probably, but not necessarily)
One small onion, sliced and sautéed (with salt & black pepper, possibly just a little soy sauce), saving 10%(ish) raw, for bite
Some slices of tomato
Lots of lettuce – at the moment i prefer romaine, but really anything will do. it’s nice to have something with at least a bit of crunch, however, so maybe iceberg or any leafier beast close to the base
Mayonnaise (lots – what are you, a giant baby?)
A diplomatic and restrained application of almond butter (or in a pinch – tahineh, less still)
A dusting of nutritional yeast (-in- the sandwich, i mean)
Possibly some hot sauce, usually as an afterthought, usually of a simple constitution
this always tastes like a BLT to me, or at least summons (“the name like a summons for all my foolish blood“) up the BLT-marked endorphin profile that feels like a hug to the heart. Even without the almond butter and nutritional yeast and hot sauce, or possibly with a little prepared mustard. fuck, i don’t know, it’s your sandwich.
you should have seen the snow tonight. stunning. i think i stood just watching it, rapt, for like thirty-five minutes, against the light of a street lamp, it’s the kind of snow that you makes you think of snowglobes shaken up by someone who has just been watching it snow, snow like this.
but why then (getting back to the point) BLT in lieu of, say, MLT? why does this remain distinctly a BLT when i have proven to myself that in a way the mayo is of more paramount importance than the bacon? why does the condiment suffer silently this relegation to the status of invisibility in flagrant disregard of the essential work that it performs? in point of fact, what really is the distinction between ingredient and condiment (ingredient, a. Component part, element, in a mixture. [f. L gredi/gress = gradi step])? why does the condiment carry such an air of incidentalness in contrast to the supposed consequentiality (for the framing/naming of a dish) of the ingredients?