It's probably a sign of my culinary prejudice, but when I think of horseradish, I immediately associate it with British cuisine. I'm well aware that people in Britain don't subsist solely on roast beef served with horseradish and Yorkshire pudding but that is what people ate in many of the English novels I read while growing up. I can't be the only one who links the ingredient with the country, though, because on several occasions friends who visited England have brought me back a jar of horseradish sauce thinking it is representative of English cuisine.
Horseradish is part of the Brassicaceae family, so it's related to other strong-tasting (and strong-scented) plants such as mustard and Brussels sprouts. The intact horseradish root looks quite innocuous and doesn't have a strong odour. But when it is peeled or sliced, it releases compounds that are fiery, potent and sinus-clearing. The pungency doesn't last long, though; it fades with exposure to air, as well as heat from cooking. The flavour can be preserved by mixing it with acidic ingredients such as vinegar or lemon, or fats such as oil or cream.
I love fresh horseradish in a sweet-tangy relish that's delicious with meats. It's made by mixing cooked, grated beets with fresh grated horseradish, white vinegar, salt and sugar.