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A condiment is a spice, sauce or other food preparation that is added to food to impart a particular flavour, to enhance its flavour, or in some cultures, to complement the dish. The term originally described pickled or preserved foods, but has shifted meaning over time.
Many condiments are available packaged in single-serving packets, like mustard or ketchup, particularly when supplied with take-out or fast-food meals. They are usually applied by the diner, but are sometimes added prior to serving; for example, in a sandwich made with ketchup or mustard. Some condiments are used during cooking to add flavour or texture to the food; barbecue sauce, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, and marmite are examples.
The term condiment comes from the Latin condimentum, meaning "spice, seasoning, sauce" and from the Latin condere, meaning "preserve, pickle, season".
The exact definition of what is and is not a condiment varies. Some definitions include spice and herbs, including salt and pepper, using the term interchangeably with seasoning. Others restrict the definition to including only "prepared food compound[s], containing one or more spices", which are added to food after the cooking process, such as mustard, ketchup or mint sauce.
Condiments were known in Ancient Rome, Ancient India, Ancient Greece and Ancient China, and were often used to improve the taste of spoiling food; before food preservation techniques were widespread, pungent spices and condiments were used to make the food more palatable. The Romans made the condiments garum and liquamen by crushing and fermenting in salt with the meat of various fish, leading to a flourishing condiment industry. Apicius, a cookbook based on 4th and 5th century cuisine, contains a section based solely on condiments.
The condiment market refers to the marketing and consumer purchase of condiments.
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