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Is hummus a condiment? What makes a condiment a condiment? What makes something not a condiment? What makes something a condiment vs a sauce/seasoning/spread/ingredient?

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    That this can only be opinion-based becomes evident if you remember that other food cultures / languages have different notions on what makes an X a member of the Y group. – Stephie Nov 28 '17 at 17:30
  • I have to disagree that this can ONLY be 'opinion-based'. Fuzzy Chef's answer does a good job of providing an objective analysis and description of the conditions under which it may or may not be a condiment. – Cos Callis Nov 28 '17 at 18:21
  • The tough question here is: is "condiment" a quality of the food, or only of the usage of the food? That is, is it the case that "hummus" is either a condiment or it is not, or can it be a condiment in one dish and not in another? Discuss. – FuzzyChef Nov 29 '17 at 22:20
  • @FuzzyChef categorization into linguistic categories is rarely limited to qualities of the thing being categorized. When it is, it is just a coincidence, or even not realizing what is a quality of the thing and what is a quality of the ways humans perceive the thing or interact with it. And that is only when we talk of qualities, which is a rather secondary criterion for linguistic categorization. So, any answer which only considers "qualities of the food" will be very far from actual usage of the term. – rumtscho Dec 1 '17 at 16:52
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Interesting question. While I realize that dictionaries are descriptive, they're what we have to go by for common usage, so let's consult three:

  • Wikipedia: A condiment is a spice, sauce, or preparation that is added to food to impart a particular flavor, to enhance its flavor,1 or in some cultures, to complement the dish. The term originally described pickled or preserved foods, but has shifted meaning over time.
  • Merriam-Webster: something used to enhance the flavor of food; especially : a pungent seasoning
  • Cambridge: a substance, such as salt, that you add to food to improve its taste

Given that Hummus is usually treated as a food in itself, rather than as a spice or sauce to enhance another food, one could argue that it's not a condiment. However, it's not uncommon for veggie burger purveyors to top a sandwich with hummus, which would, in usage, make it a condiment. Certainly tahini sauce would be a condiment.

So, my answer: It Depends.

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    The paraphrase it's not uncommon for meat burger purveyors to top a sandwich with cheese, but that's not a condiment, even though it enhances the flavour; the consistency doesn't appear to be a factor in the definitions. – Chris H Nov 28 '17 at 9:01
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    On the other hand, a place near me sells a fried eggplant sandwich spread with a tin layer of super-garlicky hummus on the bun. It's definitely a condiment in that sandwich. – FuzzyChef Nov 28 '17 at 15:55
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Beside the dictionary answers, I think is quite reasonable to think of condiments as those products that

  • impart tastes to food as well as nutritional values but are not easily or pleasant to consume alone;

  • impart taste but are of negligible nutritional relevance.

Among the first examples are oil and butter, among the second ones mustard and salt.*

This way hummus is food, a spread as a confiture or honey. This is my way to see.

*Edit Obviously salt is necessary for the organism but we normally get more than enough from food and drinks so the amount we add to taste is indeed a condiment. I am aware that seems circular reasoning but I am confident the "definitions" I gave above are quite clear.

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