Dear Ketchup,

Well, let’s just be frank (but not with beans). I owe you an apology, and that is the reason why I’m writing. I have taken you badly for granted. I’m not proud of it and, simply, I have no excuse.

Except, I guess I actually do have a few. Let me tell you things from my perspective.

In the condiment world, I considered you the Taylor Swift of sauces: always there whether we wanted you to be or not, sweet but not very deep, OK for a cookout, but not for a dinner party. I even resented the small amount of work you required. When you came in a glass bottle, your reluctance annoyed me, and it didn’t take me long before I was stabbing a knife in there insisting you come out. Now that you come in plastic, you still require shaking and, I’ll be honest, I’m a little afraid of your watery bit ruining my bun.

Finally, there is your spelling: ketchup vs. catsup. Are you intentionally trying to be difficult? Do you think it gives you intrigue?

Alas, I don’t want this apology to come off as an attack. It’s important you know that, in my own way, I’ve always subconsciously known your value.

Going to McDonald’s as a kid, for example, just wouldn’t have been the same without you. I loved you in squishy packets and would squeeze out a ketchup pool to rest placidly beside my fries. Sometimes, I would be with friends (i.e. yahoos) who would dump out their fries on their hamburger wrapper and then squeeze their ketchup all over the pile.

This always stressed me out. I always forced myself not to point out that their fry-to-ketchup ratio couldn’t possibly be well controlled that way. Of course, they were often the type of people who would arrive at the end of their meal with dried ketchup on their faces. Even though they were 8.

I’ll also admit that a hamburger isn’t the same without you. I mean, it can be done, of course, but then the sandwich lacks your distinctive sweet-tangy one-two punch. Likewise, with many barbecue sauces — you lend an essential flavor and texture that truly elevates.

Now, as for hotdogs, let’s not go crazy: you’re not an essential worker here. And as for you being an accompaniment to steak? Absolutely not. Get off the table and back into the fridge, Taylor.

Turns out, you reside there in the home of nearly every American. According to Mental Floss, Americans consume about 10 billion ounces of ketchup every year, which translates to about three bottles per person. More fast facts? The first ketchup recipe was recorded in China in 544 A.D. and consisted of the intestine, stomach and bladder of the yellow fish, shark and mullet. Heinz made the recipe considerably more palatable and widespread, of course. Incidentally, ketchup flows out of the glass Heinz bottle at a rate of 0.028 miles for hours (snails are faster at 0.03).

So you have some impressive numbers on your side. But for me, I’ve never been more impressed by you than I was this weekend. It happened after my husband accused you of being “tomato candy” (sorry — neither of us are famous for tact) after looking at your nutritional label.

Since we were on a staycation and I found myself with nearly a scary amount of time on my hands, I decided that I would try to make ketchup from scratch.

This involved me buying about 1,200 tomatoes. I found a neat recipe involving microwaving a packet of cloves, allspice berries and celery seed in apple cider vinegar. Then it was time to let the mixture reduce.

And reduce.

And reduce.

And reduce some more.

Six hours later, by the time your mixture got thick enough to stick to a French fry, the giant pot was nearly empty. What was left was enough to fill four 4-ounce jars, which I canned and are now stacked like gold bricks in the laundry room.

It was a huge lesson. And likening you to gold doesn’t seem inappropriate.

So that is the real reason for this mostly conciliatory, yet still passive-aggressive note. I don’t always love you, but I underestimated what you’re made of. I underestimated how much work you represent and, thus, your value. I won’t do that again.



Tara Paule Kaprowy

P.S. Be honest. Are you and Mustard frenemies?

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