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Etiquette regarding guests' choice of condiments

If I serve a mildly seasoned one dish meal, is hot sauce considered a condiment?

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  1. the title and the question don't seem to be related?

    IMHO, regardless of how a dish is seasoned hot sauce is a condiment.


    A substance, such as a relish, vinegar, or spice, used to flavor or complement food.

      1. re: carolinadawg

        Once upon a time it was consideed declasse to havhe a "label on the table" and it was a source of much mirth and derision when Wialliam Randopl Hearst's "picnics' were photographed with ketchup _in the bottle_ on the tables.

        In much of New Orleans, however, bottles of hot sauce, Lea & Perrins (and ONLY L&P), pepper vingear &c have always been part of the table. Used to be that the outer, tan paper wrapper on Lea & Perrins was always left on. Nowadays some restrauteurs think that this is wrong.

        1. re: hazelhurst

          Yes I remember an internet discussion with people who had grown up with decanted Coke at the table for this reason. Of course my mom would have considered the Coke itself the problem but everyone has different customs.

      2. Well, you should serve your dish the way you made it. (whatever spicy you like); not all hot-sauce go with all spicy-enable dishes.

        If it is your custom to normally have hot-sauce on the table (along with salt and pepper) then it is ok for your guests to add some if they like.

        On the other hand, It _could_ be bad manners for a guest to ask for hot sauce or any other non-usual condiments if they are not already on the table or available.


        1. Sounds like you have someone in your life that is a hot sauce fanatic and probably puts it on everything and you are trying to ask us if it is ok when you are providing the meal. Correct?

          1. Make the meal as YOU would eat it, and let others season it to their taste. I have no problem with people putting extra salt/pepper/hot sauce etc on food that I've cooked for them.

            Eat, drink and be merry.

            2 Replies
            1. re: pdxgastro

              I cook with low amounts of salt because we have a sodium problem in the family. I have no problem whatsoever if someone thinks I undersalted for their taste. I probably did. We also keep Tabasco on the table normally because we all have varying tolerances to heat. What's the big deal? You want your guests to be happy, no?

            2. I'm with carolinadawg on this. Are you asking if it's an faux pas for the guests to request hot sauce, or if it's wrong for you not to offer?

              When I serve a meal to guests, I always ask, "Do you need anything else? Salt, pepper, lemon?" If they ask for hot sauce (which most people have on hand) I don't mind grabbing it.

              Think of Walter in To Kill a Mockingbird, who asks for syrup and pours it on everything. Handle it like Atticus, not Scout.

              3 Replies
              1. re: pinehurst

                Handle it like Atticus, not Scout.
                Thanks for putting a smile on my face this morning.

                1. If I'm serving something that I would spice up at the table - I have several friends whose tolerance for spicy is pretty minimal - I provide several hot sauces in their labelled bottles, because each has its distinctive characteristics. Tabasco is what it is, Cholula or Tapatio have less heat and a broader flavor, the radioactive-green habañero sauce is quite hot but with a lovely verdant flavor. People have their favorites, or in some cases are interested in learning about new ones, so while "No labels on the table" is probably a good rule for a formal dinner, damned few of mine are.

                  I'll even put ketchup on the table if someone wants it, as long as its relationship to the food is reasonable.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Will Owen

                    If your radioactive green habanero sauce is El Yucateco then I agree. I love that stuff so much.

                    1. re: JonParker

                      Agree. I love el yucateco as well. The red habanero sauce is good, too, but I prefer the green. I'm definitely a hot sauce fan. I have some super hot sauces, but sriracha, franks, tapatio, cholula, Tabasco, crystal, and even Texas Pete have their place at my table as well.

                      1. re: MonMauler

                        I use the red on eggs just because the green and yellow look unappetizing to me. I've also used the red to add some heat to Frank's when making wing sauce.

                    2. re: Will Owen

                      <I'll even put ketchup on the table if someone wants it, as long as its relationship to the food is reasonable.>>

                      and if the relationship to the food isn't "reasonable? What then?

                      1. re: Will Owen

                        in parts of nayarit and sinaloa, it is customary to serve ketchup alongside shrimp cocktails.

                      2. While I don't 100% understand the specific original question - I do believe that hot sauce is a condiment, as opposed to salt and pepper. Not sure what I'd call salt and pepper - but with the exception of highly sensitive hosts and for dessert, I don't think there's a situation where it's ever unusual (in a Western dining context) to ask for salt and pepper at a meal.

                        In a restaurant though, I do think that people should order and season their food to their desire. However, at a dinner party if someone is serving a dish that is not typically associated with condiments such as lasagna or a quiche - I would find someone asking for hot sauce the same as asking for salsa or ketchup. Bizarre to the meal.

                        I don't think that asking for hot sauce to put on a quiche to be rude - but more a case of before doing that, just make sure you know your hosts. In the terms of being a gracious guest, I do think that it depends on what's being served.

                        1. If we have guests, the table will have condiments appropriate to the dish being cooked, on the assumption that folk may wish more of whatever flavouring is in the dish. There's always salt (as I don't cook with it, as I prefer a no sodium taste) and pepper. There would be other "traditional" things depending on what was being cooked - so, for example, malt vinegar with fish and chips. However, in the same example, ther ewould never be hot sauce on the table for fish & chips (and I can't recall ever having a guest ask for a bottled condiment that wasnt there)

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Harters

                            "traditional" varies by country and by region.
                            when i first went to the southeast it seemed strange to see people putting salt and pepper on what looked to me like breakfast cereal (grits).

                            as i've become more traveled, the word "traditional" when applied to food is not a definite line. . . . .

                            1. re: Harters

                              I wouldn't ask for hot sauce on fish if I was a guest, but if it was on the table I'd definitely use it. In Baltimore, hot sauce on fried chicken and lake trout (fried fish) is how it's done.

                            2. whatever it's considered, if i've gone to the trouble of preparing the meal and if my guest will enjoy the meal more with the addition of any condiment that i have in the house, i happily provide the condiment.

                              since i love condiments myself, i'll sometimes choose a restaurant based on the condiments they offer.
                              for instance, there is an indian restaurant near me that makes their own home-made pickle. it is delicious. it tastes far superior to the stuff that comes in a jar.
                              i will go out of my way to go to that indian restaurant as opposed to others.

                              same with thai food. they served a group of four or five condiments along with their meals. the quality of the condiments is one of the factors that goes into the restaurant selection decision

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: westsidegal

                                In general, I think that etiquette is often helpful for making sure not to offend others and make others feel comfortable/at ease. And on the subject of condiments - in general, I personally lean towards mimicking my hosts.

                                I don't think that all condiments are created equally "appropriate" in the minds of people making food. Not even to go as broad as in different cultures/countries - but going down as narrow as in different households. Is ketchup on steak declasse? In an American household - is mayo with fries weird?

                                While there are lots of people who have commented about wanting to people to enjoy the food they've prepared - my personal approach in hosted situations is to appreciate what's being served to me with condiments that they've chosen.

                                1. re: cresyd

                                  In Oklahoma, where I'm originally from, ketchup on fries is standard. On the east coast, my adopted home, it shares table space with malt vinegar. I'm in OK right now, and just today I had to request vinegar for my fries in a restaurant. Fortunately they had some in the back.

                                  1. re: JonParker

                                    In a restaurant I'm all for people asking for what they want - but if I was at someone's home and they were serving fries but didn't have vinegar out, I probably wouldn't ask for it.

                                  2. re: cresyd

                                    I feel exactly the same as cresyd. When I'm the guest, if it's not on the table or has not been specifically offered, I follow the lead of the hosts and do as they do. Personally, I'm not too offended if I'm the host and someone asked for a certain condiment unless I think it's an abomination and is ruining a dish I spent a lot of effort on preparing. Even then I wouldn't say anything (unless it's one of my kids).

                                  1. re: sandylc

                                    I was wondering why the repeat in the question, as if it weren't hashed/rehashed enough the first time around.

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      Hashed so much that the mods locked it. And where are the OP's responses in either thread?

                                      1. re: chowser

                                        This thread was actually started first, and the poster only has one additional post. Maybe they don't know how to find their posts or forgot they posted already, not being a seasoned user. I have to wonder if the poster is in trouble at home with spouse or daughter over this incident...

                                    2. How do you feel about the boyfriend otherwise?

                                      1. I would consider hot sauce a condiment (because of the vinegar). However, I would consider red pepper flake a seasoning (on equal ground with S & P for me). I prefer my food very spicy. Red pepper can get the "chili heads" to their desired level of heat without insulting the host by covering up the entree IMO. Of course, some hosts will be insulted by any adjustment, so proceed with caution.....

                                        1. One man's "mildly seasoned" is another's underseasoned/bland/boring/ill prepared.