A condiment is a type of food that is rarely eaten as a principal food during a meal, but is instead often added to another prepared dish to provide increased flavor or texture. There are just about as many different types of condiments as there are different types of food, with various cultures having versions that are unique or particularly important to the people of that culture. Common examples of condiments include ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salad dressing, soy sauce, barbecue sauce, relish, salt, and pepper.
Often added to a food to introduce new flavors or enhance existing ones, a condiment is seldom served or eaten by itself, and does not typically contribute much nutritional value. They may also be used in food preparation as an ingredient in a dish, and sometimes are served alongside a dish that it was used as an ingredient within.
This is typically the case of seasonings and herbs that can be used as condiments as well. Some cooks prefer to use only light amounts of salt or pepper while cooking, and allow the people eating the food to add more depending on their preferences. This treatment of a condiment as an ingredient and a potential additive while eating is common for herbs and spices, especially those that can provide some visual appeal or textural contrast when added to a cooked dish.
Some foods lend themselves toward the use of condiments, such as hot dogs and hamburgers. While these can be eaten plainly, many people prefer to add things like ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, or relish. Some foods can also be used in this way, even though they can be eaten separately, making the use of the word fairly contextual. A slice of tomato added to a hamburger is typically considered a condiment, while the same tomato slice could easily be a fundamental part of a salad.
Many condiments are culturally connected to different types of foods or may be used with certain foods in some areas while with other foods in other areas. French fries are often eaten in America with ketchup and sometimes barbecue sauce, while in Belgium they are often served with mayonnaise, and in the United Kingdom they are commonly sprinkled with vinegar. Similarly, certain types of foods are often served with specific condiments, such as soy sauce being commonly served with Asian dishes and grated cheeses such as Parmesan being a staple condiment of Italian cuisine.