A seasonal battle is underway, as fierce as any on a basketball court. But this one plays out in church undercrofts and high school cafeterias.

It’s the age-old Lenten question: tartar sauce or horseradish?

One is sweet and tangy, the other sharp and spicy. Few things separate us like this oft-heated controversy. And perhaps that’s the true March madness.

Hungry ?:Find a fish fry near you in Cincinnati with this handy map 🐟

A spicy start

Horseradish isn’t necessarily a German thing, but Germans certainly had a hand in it. The English word is believed to come from the German name for it, “meerrettich.” Somehow that became a word that sounded like “mare-radish,” and well, the rest is history.

Horseradish.org (really) says Greeks once used it as an aphrodisiac. It was dispensed as a treatment for food poisoning in England.

And now, it’s slathered atop our fried fish on Lenten Fridays.

That is, unless you go for its tart but creamier condiment cousin, tartar sauce.

And this where Cincinnati really comes into the picture.

A recipe for brains with tartar sauce appeared in The Cincinnati Enquirer on June 1, 1891.

A Cincinnati Enquirer article from 1891 describes a tartar sauce made to accompany brains. Thankfully, we stick with fried fish these days.

We also tend to let the professionals handle the recipes. Frisch’s tartar sauce has near-cult status, and the local restaurant chain sells more than 120,000 gallons each year. Generations of Cincinnatians have dipped their crinkle-cut fries into Frisch’s famous tartar sauce.

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