~By Kate H. Knapp
My fascination with refrigerators began long before I can even remember. While Santa was delivering Barbies and My Little Ponies to my other seven-year-old friends, I received a working mini fridge that was the perfect addition to my playtime kitchen. It kept my plastic veggies and fruits ever so crisp and fresh. But the one thing it was lacking was an array of condiments.
My parents’ refrigerator was always filled to the brim with leftovers, but what I found most intriguing was the sizeable collection of mustards, horseradishes, jellies, chutneys, and ketchups. Sitting on the fridge door, each jar held secret ingredients I had yet to understand and my young mind found hours of entertainment sampling the often overlooked, yet crucial, accompaniments. Even on those rare days when the fridge was bare, the condiments remained steadfast and were always on hand to create something satisfying. One of my favorite sandwiches growing up was simply horseradish and mayo on white bread.
When I finally got a fridge of my own during my first year of college, I made sure that I was well equipped with all the condiments any sandwich, meat, or piece of toast would require. I browsed the grocery store like a sommelier looking for a fine wine, filling my cart with honey, hot and spicy, Dijon, and yellow mustards; apple butter; rhubarb, raspberry, and apricot jams; mint sauce; horseradish; mayonnaise; Tabasco; rice vinegar; and of course ketchup (Don’t even get me started on salad dressings and maple syrup). I don’t recall buying anything but condiments on my first visit to the store, but I felt like my dream that began so long ago in my childhood bedroom among my E-Z bake oven and Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine was finally a reality: My very own fridge (even if it was rented, olive green, and built in the ’60s) was stocked and ready to meet any food challenge.
My obsession with delectable accompaniments continues to this day. My ex-boyfriend went as far as to create Mustard Day, a holiday each year on which a different mustard miraculously arrived in the mail for us to sample. This became my all-time favorite holiday, because I never knew when I was going to be graced with a new and unique condiment from somewhere around the world. And though the relationship ended along with the holiday, my love affair with condiments is still worth celebrating each and every day.
As I get older, my fridge resembles my parents’ two-sided Kenmore more and more. My sparkling clean shelves that used to hold a jar of cornichons alongside a few staples are now filled with Tupperware and tin-foil dishes, the cheese drawer is a disaster in Swiss and goudas, and my veggies are stacked on top of one another like performing circus elephants. The one thing that remains the same, however, is the side door, where each condiment jar is lovingly arranged, bringing harmony to the chaos, and a damn fine touch of taste to an otherwise dull dish.
Places to find Condiment Must-Haves for any Respectable Fridge
* Mount Horeb Mustard Museum: The Arran Original Whole Grain Mustard Seed is an all-time favorite.
* Stonewall Kitchen: Raspberry Peach Jelly, Fig and Ginger Jam, Peach Amaretto Jam, Sundried Tomato and Olive Relish, Maple Pumpkin Butter, Artichoke Pesto, Balsamic Fig Dressing, and more.
*iGourmet: Features too many to list, but you can also find recipes to use with your favorite condiment.