If I could no longer eat Ketchup it would nearly ruin my life. I’m 32 years old.
Condiments are meant to act as flavor enhancers, subtle sauces that compliment and coalesce within the meal one is consuming to enrich the overall imbibing experience. This, however, is not how I use condiments. I prefer it if the condiment is the star and the meal itself the talented if often overlooked, background singers. The meal is, essentially a vehicle ascribed with the sole purpose of transporting condiments to my tastebuds. It is an intermediary. And within the world of condiments, there is only one true-born king. The prince who was promised, the stallion who would mount the world and indeed did. Ketchup. Smooth, rich, coagulated, lycopene saturated ketchup. The nector of the Gods. It’s sugary and salty at the same time; it brazenly defies culinary convention (that’s probably not true).
For as long as I can remember I have loved ketchup with a fervor typically displayed by underlings in a Totalitarian regime. Eggs, french fries, potato chips, burgers, hot dogs, pickles, mac n’ cheese…bread. Yes, bread. I used to construct ketchup sandwiches on a daily basis in my younger years. A ketchup sandwich consisted of ketchup and bread. Except, occasionally when the moon was waxing gibbous and I was in a particularly extravagant mood – in those instances, I would add a few potato chips.
Although my ketchup consumption has lessened considerably over the years, it is still remarkably high. People use the “it’s like crack” analogy far too often when referring to some sort of delicious food. I hate the analogy, because it’s never really accurate. A delicious pretzel covered in dark chocolate will not have you pawning your mothers TV or blowing a guy behind a Kinkos to get your hands on more. With that said, ketchup is like crack to me. It is my crack. While I would likely not go to quite the same lengths to get my hands on it, the reality is not too far behind the crack addict’s level of desperation.
I was eating some eggs yesterday morning and the thought of a ketchup-less life flashed in front of my eyes as I dipped my egg sandwich -already adorned with ketchup– into the heaping pile of ketchup on my plate. This existence (if you could even call it that) devoid of ketchup, was along the lines of a Mad Max level dystopia, but without all the awesome weapons and cars and whatnot. It was essentially a barren dessert, with no color, no vibrancy, no life.
Countless people have said to me,
But you don’t even taste the food that way.
I know that, I taste the ketchup.
For what is a french fry without ketchup? It is but a mere sliced potato, bland and mundane. It is a life without music; it is a cloud-covered sunset -seen by no one. Eggs without their crimson compatriot are slovenly piles devoid of elegance, or lonely, bulging pods gazing longingly for a soul-mate. Most veggie burgers are sponge-like clods that taste like warm water and cheap soap -but ketchup hides all that. It’s a fixer. I have never seen Ray Donovan, but from what I hear, he and Ketchup have a very similar day-to-day.
I have learned to live without ketchup in various scenarios; I have even made it through an egg sandwich without my culinary life-blood, so I am working on it. And maybe some day, in some other world, with three moons glistening softly in the sky I will have fully separated myself from the wondrous glory of this tomato-based product. But not today. It won’t be today.
by Jesse Mechanic
Jesse Mechanic is the Editor-in-chief of The Overgrown.