On top of the world

Wherein we travel the globe in search of condiment news

Published May 13, 2024

Feeling saucy? This week’s news briefs are made to order, with just the right balance of flavors to … you know what? You already know it’s condiment news, and we’re hungry, so let’s skip the lede and chow down!

Talk about deep flavor…

It turns out umami was a thing way before it was a thing. A fermented fish sauce called garum was recently identified as the mysterious contents of 300 jugs found aboard a sunken Roman-era ship off the coast of Spain.

Some of the jugs brought up from the 1,700-year-old Ses Fontanelles contained small fish bones, leading scientists to believe that the sauce was made with anchovies and sardines: typically, garum was made by leaving fish out to “putrefy” in the Mediterranean sun for three months. Yum!

While there was lots of fish sauce aboard, there were also amphorae full of olive oil, wine, and vinegar (yes, the Mediterranean diet was always a thing too). Non-edible items included shoes, ropes, a wooden drill, and a Roman Siscia coin–made under emperor Constantine the Great, which places the wreck in the fourth century CE. (And by the way, umami became a thing in 2009).

Did you know there’s a Dutch province called Friesland? 

Known to many as the European capital of vice, Amsterdam has recently come down hard on a more prosaic problem: Dutch fries. Take-out friet joints in the city have become increasingly popular, not only because their fried potatoes are mouth-wateringly delicious, but because they are served with cheese and special condiments such as truffle mayonnaise, curry ketchup, and peanut sauce. You can even order pataje oorlog–“war fries”–topped with peanut sauce and curry ketchup, plus onion. 

According to officials, the problem is that the streets are filling up with people waiting for their orders, annoying neighboring shop owners and local residents. According to a new ordinance, these fry-slingers will have to close once the waiting diners number 10, and take no new orders until the waiting customers have been served. Natuurlijk, the tater joints are fighting the order in the courts; hopefully the streets won’t fill up with people waiting for the verdict. 

Sweet heat (or, chilly chili)

That popular Mexican-inspired chile lime seasoning called Tajin is known for its perfectly citrusy and mildly spicy flavor: great as a topping for corn on the cob, cucumber, and jicama; on fruits like mango, watermelon, or pineapple; or on the rim your cocktail glass. But now the Jalisco-based company is entering new untested culinary territory—unleashing Tajin-mango and Tajin-lime sorbets.

America’s love affair with the spice mix–long a popular condiment in Mexico, and named for an archaeological site there–began with the first exports in 1993. But it’s poised to have a great year in 2024, with even non-food publications such as The Week proclaiming that “nuanced spice is the next big thing.” One way or another, it’s hard to be mad about a fat-free, dairy-free sorbet with a refreshing chili-lime zing. We say…¡órale!



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