A condiment is defined as an appetizing ingredient added to food; a substance which seasons and gives relish to food. It is a sauce, a relish or a spice. The fallacy contained in this definition will be made fully apparent as we proceed.
In one form or another condiments are in almost universal use. In more advanced portions of the globe many condiments are employed and are regarded as quite a natural and necessary part of the diet. They are not foods and are not considered as foods, although they are frequently referred to as accessory foods, and almost everybody thinks he cannot live without them.
Common salt, (sodium chloride) is the most widely used condiment. Arsenic is also used in some parts of the world as a condiment. There is no more excuse for the use of salt than there is for the use of arsenic. As a separate chapter will be devoted to salt using, it will not be necessary to say more about it at this time.
Before considering the usual defenses of condiment using let us get an idea of what condiments are and what they do. Condiments are of two classes:
(1) Those containing irritating, but non-volatile oils, such as mustard, pepper, cayenne, capsicum, horse-radish, ginger, spices.
(2) Those containing irritating but volatile oils, such as mint and thyme.
Both classes are irritating to the delicate lining of the digestive tract and those that find their way into the body carry their irritating effects along with them to prick and goad the liver and other organs of the body. This should cause us to be suspicious of the truth of the claims made for them.
The use of condiments is usually defended on the following grounds:
(1) They make the food more palatable.
(2) They increase the appetite.
(3) They stimulate the flow of the digestive juices.
Spices were first used as medicines; this is to say, their use grew out of voodooism. From the black magic art of curing "disease" they were carried over into the black magic art of adding tastiness to foods that have been robbed of the natural flavors contained in their juices and salts by the black magic art of cooking. Dr. Moras says: "The sickly prevailing way of boiling vegetables in a lot of water, thereby extracting their curative and nourishing juices and salts, and then pouring these essentials away, is equal to feeding people the straw and residue, and pigs the nourishing and curative parts. Not only that, but in order to make the residue or straw eatable it is then fixed up with some flour paste or milk gravy or vinegar or other palate-tickling condiments or seasonings--thereby heaping insult upon injury to the poor stomach."
Condiments can improve the palatability of foods only for those who are accustomed to their use. No condiment is palatable when it is first tasted. Everyone is forced to learn to use them over the protests of the organic instincts. Condiment using is really a deliberately cultivated perversion of the sense of taste.
Condiments not only irritate the digestive organs and thus impair their functioning powers; they also blunt the sensibilities of the gustatory nerves and thereby diminish our enjoyment of simple foods. In thus trying to increase his enjoyment in eating, the surfeited gastronome defeats his own purpose; "the most appetizing dishes he values only as foil to his caustic condiments, like the Austrian peddler who trudges through the flower-leas of the Alpenland in a cloud of nicotine, and to whom the divine afflautus of the morning wind is only so much draught for his tobacco-pipe."
There are no flavors that appeal more to the normal sense of taste than the flavors that exist in natural foods. I always feel sorry for people who know nothing of the flavors that no condiment can ever equal or even imitate. When I see people adding salt to an apple, or a watermelon, pepper to a cantaloupe or dressing to lettuce I think of the real gustatory delights of which they are robbing themselves.
To the unperverted taste the attractiveness of alimentary substances is proportioned to the degree of their healthfullness and their nutritive value. No one is ever mislead by an innate craving for unwholesome food, nor by an instinctive aversion to wholesome foods. By beginning a carefully graduated plan of miseducation, the sense of taste may be so depraved that it will reject wholesome foods and will demand the most unwholesome and innutritious substances.
There is nothing that entices us with greater appeal, nothing that awakens the desire to eat, nothing that arouses every organ of digestion and pleases the sense of taste more than Nature's richly colored, delicately flavored, highly scented--luscious and odorous--edibles.
He who is accustomed to eat unseasoned, unspiced foods, knows that condiment users are missing many fine, delicate flavors that are far more pleasing to the sense of taste than any sauce, relish or spice can ever be. Real pleasure in eating comes from tasting the natural flavors in foods.
Condiments cover up or camouflage the fine, delicate flavors that nature puts into her food products and prevent the user from enjoying these finer flavors. Millions of people live comparatively long lives without ever once experiencing the real taste of even the most common articles of food. The employment of sauces, condiments, salt, etc., on foods, in eating them, in the foolish belief that this makes them better, prevents them from once enjoying the real taste of foods themselves.
Condiment users protest that foods have no taste unless they are spiced or covered with relish or sauce. They are unable to enjoy an unspiced, unseasoned meal. This is true because their sense of taste has been perverted by the very practice. Condiments so deaden the sense of taste that it is not able to appreciate the finer flavors of foods. The natural flavors of foods are neither detected, nor appreciated, nor relished.
Dr. Edmond R. Moras well says: "Most people eat because eatables are salty or peppery or vinegary or sweetish, and not because they relish the taste of the eatables themselves. When you educate your taste back to enjoying the taste of articles of food because the foods themselves taste good, and educate your brain back to its autologic instinct, you are on the way to health."
Nature has seasoned all of her foods perfectly. If these are eaten in their natural state there will be no desire for harmful condiments, seasonings and flavors.
While I was sitting at my desk writing this chapter the following words came in over the bunk box (radio) in advertising a fiery relish manufactured here in Texas: "here is something to arouse a jaded appetite and make foods a joy again." But should a jaded appetite be aroused?
Nature has arranged that Natural, unseasoned foods, eaten when required by the body and under proper mental or emotional and physical condition, will occasion the secretion of the digestive fluids in a perfectly natural way and the stimulation they afford is never sufficient to impair the functional vigor of the digestive glands. Artificial "stimulation" is not necessary, but is harmful.
One who discontinues the use of condiments soon discovers a returning appreciation for the more delicate flavors of foods, and develops a keen relish for foods for their own sake rather than for the seasonings. In time he finds that foods really taste better than seasonings and cannot be hired to return to the use of condiments.
Do condiments increase appetite? They do, and for this very reason their use should be condemned. The desire for food should arise out of actual physiological needs and when these needs are not present no food should be consumed. Appetite should not be stimulated by the use of condiments. This leads to overeating. Condiments do not produce hunger--we should eat only when hungry.
So great is the power of condiments to stimulate appetite that it is seriously contended that it is almost impossible to overeat if they are not employed. They induce eating when there is no natural need and desire for food, when no food should be taken. They induce eating long after the physiological needs of the body have been fully satisfied.
If there is a real need for food no condiments are essential to the production of desire for food. The artificially produced simulation of desire for food serves no useful purpose. If there is a natural desire for food condiments are not needed to enable us to enjoy eating.
While I have said condiments do increase appetite, it is perhaps best to say that this occurs only in the habitual condiment user and that the increased demand is less for food, than for the accustomed excitant, itself. Upon this very point Dr. Oswald says, in Physical Education, p. 58:
"By avoiding pungent condiments we also obviate the principal cause of gluttony. It is well-known that the admirers of lager-beer do not drink it for the sake of its nutritive properties, but as a medium of stimulation, and I hold that nine out of ten gluttons swallow their peppered ragouts for the same purpose. Only natural appetites have natural limits. Two quarts of water will satisfy the normal thirst of a giant, two pounds of dates, his hunger after a two day's fast. But the beer-drinker swills till he runs over, and the glutton stuffs himself till the oppression of his chest threatens him with suffocation. Their unnatural appetite has no limits but those of their abdominal capacity. Poison-hunger would be a better word than appetite. What they really want is alcohol and hot spices, and, being unable to swallow them "straight," the one takes a bucketful of swill, the other a potful of grease into the bargain."
Do condiments stimulate the flow of the digestive juices? Perhaps some of them do produce a temporary increase in the flow of such juices. Much juice may be poured out to counteract their irritation and wash them away. It is doubful, however, that they increase the secretion of enzymes and it is certain that any juice poured out in response to these substances would not be adapted to the digestion or ordinary foods. The juice would be more likely to be mucous than a digestive secretion. In the mouth the increased outpouring of saliva mixed with mucus would not contain more pytalin; in the stomach more diluting fluid and mucus, not more pepsin and hydrochloric acid would be poured out.
The three defenses of condiment using add up to the contentions that their use increases the joys of eating and improves digestion, thus improving nutrition. I have previously showed that contrary to increasing the joys of eating, condiments rob us of these very joys. It is here necessary to consider only the contention that their use improves digestion.
"It is a fallacy," says Dr. Oswald, "to suppose that hot spices aid the process of digestion; they irritate the stomach and cause it to discharge the ingesta as rapidly as possible, as it would hasten to rid itself of tartarized antimony or any other poison; but this very precipitation of the gastric functions prevents the formation of healthy chyle. There is an important difference between rapid and thorough digestion." It is evident he is here contrasting rapid (and premature) emptying of the stomach with thorough digestion.
In the renowned experiments made by Beaumont on Alexis St. Martin (1825 to 1833), he found by repeated and careful tests that when precisely the same kinds of foods were taken at the same hour on successive days, and in exactly similar conditions of the stomach, food that had been dressed with liberal quantities of strong mustard and vinegar was three-quarters of an hour longer in digesting than that which was taken without such condiments. All of this difference was noticed in a stomach accustomed by long use to such condiments and was unable, therefore, due to loss of tone and vigor as a result of their use, to properly perform its function.
Condiments interfere with digestion in still another way. We have learned of the part played by the taste of food in determining the character of juice poured out upon the food. Condiments disguise the taste of food and prevent the precise adaptation of juice to food. This factor is more important than it may seem to those unaccustomed to think in physiological terms. To discontinue the use of condiments means better digestion.
In the undepraved condition of mouth and stomach, their sensibilities enable them, with the nicest discriminating accuracy, to perceive and appreciate both the quality of the stimulus and the degree of stimulation. The habitual use of unnatural "stimulants" so blunts and depraves the sense of taste and the sensibilities of the stomach, that these often lose their powers of discrimination to such an extent that they are no longer able to perceive the quality of the stimulus and retain only their ability to appreciate the degree of stimulation. By such means their delicate susceptibility to the action of their natural stimuli (food) is impaired.
It was also found in Beaumont's experiments that when mustard and pepper were consumed with the food these remained in the stomach until digestion was complete and continued to emit a strong aromatic odor to the last; and that the mucous surface of the stomach presented a slightly morbid turgid appearance towards the close of the digestive process.