Summer Relishes

In Season, Recipes, Seasonal Foods, Summer
on August 3, 2008

As you can imagine, “relish” is one of our favorite words. When were not talking about our magazine or web site, were thinking about things we relish — farmers, new dishes, food festivals and kids in the kitchen.

There are, of course, other kinds of relishes. They are the savory condiments, often with whimsical-sounding names, that add zing to food — chowchows, ketchups, atjars, and salsas. Our refrigerator door is so stocked with them, there’s barely room for milk and orange juice.

We’ve known for years that chutneys go with curries and kimchi is for Korean dishes, but those are only the tip of a very large iceberg. To learn more, we went to Salsas, Sambals, Chutneys and Chowchows by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby (Morrow, 1993). Schlesinger was introduced to what he calls “little dishes” in cooking school and has become a relish expert. According to him, relish with Mexican ingredients is salsa; with ingredients from Java, it’s sambal; and with Indian ingredients, it’s chutney. In the South, sweet and vinegary green tomato relish with apples, prunes and raisins might be called piccalilli or chow chow, the name for any relish with green tomatoes.

Relishes always remind us of a story about Brooke Astor, the New York socialite and philanthropist. Years ago, after visiting prefabricated homes being built with Astor Foundation money, Mrs. Astor sat down to a deli lunch in one of the model homes. She helped herself to a corned beef sandwich and saw little plastic containers of mustard and Russian dressing. “Look at the marvelous sauces,” she said.

By Jean Kressy, a food writer in Ashburnham, Mass.