Dateline: October 6, 2011.
The entire country of France announced it would ban the use of ketchup in elementary schools. Not just Paris or Lyon, but the whole country. The reason behind this was so children could experience more traditional French cuisine. Les enfants would be allowed ketchup once a week, and only then to put it on – wait for it – french fries.
For the rest of the world, this was a non-event. We maybe wondered why the French children had to be punished in such a way, but we figured they could at least have ketchup at home or when they went to middle school.
But, then, last month something strange happened. The Mad Fresh Bistro in Fort Myers, Florida (Florida!) declared that it, too, would ban our lovable, tomato-based condiment for all patrons over the age of 10. It may come as no surprise to you that the owner of the Mad Fresh Bistro is one Xavier Duclos, born in New York City but raised in France.
Before I get too upset, I feel it can only be helpful here to wax poetic about my own history with ketchup.
My mother was trained in nursing. She healed the sick and afflicted. She did not attend the Culinary Institute. She was Clara Barton, not Betty Crocker. Ketchup was without exaggeration twenty percent of my diet.
Exhibit One: Meatloaf.
My mother’s meatloaf contained hamburger, an egg, and Lipton’s onion soup mix. Any other ingredients were purely accidental. To me, it tasted like a giant onion-y hamburger. And not in a good way. There was no gravy but thank god there was ketchup. For some reason, it was much more palatable the next day right out of the refrigerator.
Exhibit Two: Baked Haddock.
Haddock was the only fish we ever had growing up and the only way we ever cooked it was in the oven. I didn’t like the smell or the taste. My parents concocted a sauce made of Miracle Whip and ketchup that was supposed to make it easier for me to eat. It almost worked.
Exhibit Three: Scrambled Eggs.
I’ll bet a significant number of people had ketchup with their first serving of scrambled eggs. To a kid, the thought of eating eggs is kind of intimidating. They are slimy and sticky inside. But, when you scramble them up and cook them, they’re actually pretty good. If you had home fries, you could just throw some of that ketchup on them too!
Exhibit Four: Grilled Cheese.
I’m not going to pretend that my mother could screw up a grilled cheese sandwich. This is one of my odder food fetishes and I don’t remember how it started. It’s a mystery even to me why I still put ketchup on grilled cheese today. Maybe it brings out the subtle notes of the fromage.
So, listen up, Chef Le Pew! You’re in America now. In the US of A, we have the right to free speech and the right to bear arms. We have the right to NASCAR and the right to listen to country music. And we damn straight have the right to put ketchup on anything we want any time we want!
What did you put ketchup on growing up? Please leave a comment…