The Five Rules For Ketchup: My Weird Ways With Food

The Five Rules For Ketchup: My Weird Ways With Food
photo by Andy L

Over the years, the ChicagoNow network of bloggers has done a monthly exercise called "Blogapalooza," where we are given a prompt at a certain time on a certain day and given an hour to write on that topic. The idea is to get the creative juices flowing and to get a variety of people writing on the same general idea, creating a wide spectrum of articles on a theme, regardless of what one's blog might normally be "about."

This year, in an effort to keep myself moving forward in my writing, I'll be going back through the topics since it started in September of 2013, and using the ones I never participated in (most of them) as random writing prompts. This one is from July 2016 -- evening edition:

"Write about one or more of your food/eating preferences or habits that you or others may find unusual or quirky."

Ketchup. Catsup. Many people love it. Use it all over the place. I don't *hate* it, but I am pretty weird about it. I have RULES. As I've looked back over my life, I can point out a variety of things that make me think that I am probably "on the spectrum," as it were, but I definitely have a lot of issues with food. Texture being a huge factor. Ketchup definitely falls somewhere in this texture thing, so its gross-me-the-eff-out factor can get pretty high, pretty fast. So, to limit the ways in which it can go wrong, I have rules for how/when/where/why I eat ketchup.

1. First, it's best to stick with the basics. I like Heinz ketchup. I don't really want to venture off into Hunt's or some rando generic. Sometimes, some homemade stuff at a restaurant can do the trick, but often times, it's too vinegar-y or too ... something. Heinz has got that shit down, so let's just stay with what works, right?

2. Ketchup is for DIPPING only. Not for pouring on, slathering, dousing, mixing*, or covering. End of story. Whatever is being used as a ketchup delivery device is being put into the reservoir of ketchup, and pulled back out. Done deal. It's best if the ketchup has its own side plate so it's not touching anything else on the plate.

2a. Heinz (my ketchup lord and savior) recently came out with a revolutionary advance in fast food ketchup technology -- the dip & squeeze -- that allows someone to decide if they want to squeeze the packet (no!) or rip it open and dip things into it (yes!). These are probably pretty spendy, so not every restaurant carries them, leaving you to the nasty, small, plastic packets (sometimes, generic -- ew). The aforementioned don't have any real control in how they rip or where they squeeze, and you're often searching for a good place to make your ketchup spot, which more often than not, leads to foregoing the ketchup altogether in favor of not having the permanent shivers.

3. The items used in dipping are limited in scope. The primary tool is a french fry or some other deep fried potato (e.g.,. a waffle fry, steak fry, tator tot). That is the only potato that should be touching ketchup. Not hash browns or skillets. The only other acceptable items for ketchup use are other deep fried items, when VERY dry and in need of some zing (and when other sauces such as barbecue and ranch are unavailable) -- see: chicken tenders.  Actually, really only chicken tenders. Other deep fried foods, such as mozzarella sticks, mushrooms, and onion rings get their own specific sauce (marinara, ranch, and nothing, respectively).

4. The amount of ketchup must be limited to the amount of items dipped. In other words, the less ketchup used, the better. The ultimate goal is to put exactly the amount of ketchup on the plate that one needs, so that by the last swipe of a fry or tender, the last bit of ketchup is being taken off the plate, leaving no gross ketchup behind to sit there looking disgusting. Recklessly putting huge amounts of ketchup on a plate for no good reason is absolutely VERBOTEN.

5. Rules are made to be broken. The only thing allowed ketchup on it is a McDonald's McBurger. (Jocelyn TM) That's what I call the mini little regular burgers you get at McD's that I've been eating since I was a kid. I rarely eat there anymore, but that stuff that brings me right back to five years old, and that can send me into a fast food shame spiral for a week. Anyway, I eat that burger exactly as it is prepared, with mustard, pickle, onion, and requisite ketchup, because it's its own singular thing.

*I have been heartbroken to find out that French dressing is actually made with ketchup, but I just prefer to stick my head in the sand about that and ignore that prospect, lest that delightful, weird, strange, hardly-used, old-woman dressing become nasty to me. I like it. So, I'm just gonna pretend I don't know what's in it and leave it at that.

SO. These are the rules for ketchup. There are many other rules for other foods, but we'll leave this here for now. Welcome to 2017, where I'm trying to write every day, and you're gonna have to deal with it.

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