Made from horseradish root, sometimes beets and little else, this fiery condiment offers more prepossessing foods a gentle kick in the pants. The perfect answer to the mildness of gefilte fish, chrain—as it’s also called—comes in a more bitter, white version as well as in a sweeter ruby-red one. It is sometimes used as an ingredient in cocktail sauce, but its real claim to fame is the heat that it brings to Jewish delicacies. Let the WASPs have their Worcestershire; leave it to the Jews to turn suffering into a craving. For those who are charmed by this condiment, as I am, it is possibly most gratifying eaten on its own, directly out of the jar.
Daphne Merkin, a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine and a contributing editor at Elle, teaches writing at Hunter College. Her latest book is a memoir, This Close to Happy, a reckoning with depression.