Publicado el 01/04/2007 2:04 PM EST
I don’t know much about the history of ketchup, but I do know that I like it a lot. In my youth our household finances could be measured by the presence of ketchup on the kitchen table, and the extent of our prosperity by the size of the ketchup bottle. Ketchup and pepper sauce were the two flavorings that were rendered indispensable prior to any meal. We sprinkled, poured or dropped ketchup on anything that couldn’t hide from the deluge. Large portions of the red stuff mixed very well with those ordinary and bland dishes that were cooked in or on a wood stove and made from scratch.
For decades, ketchup has been the major food group of choice in the family. It blends well with all meat dishes, especially Vienna sausage and sardines. French fries, cauliflower, and carrots are just some of the vegetables that when mixed with ketchup become quality foods for fine dining. In fact, fruits can reach new heights of palatable potency when mixed with ketchup. My favorite nighttime snack is a slice of apple loaded with peanut butter and topped with a generous helping of ketchup. About the only digestible items that will decline my ketchup usage are coconut cream pie, watermelon, and bottled water.
But American’s eating habits, like their politics, do change. Picante sauce has outsold ketchup for a number of years. But my loyalty still lies with the noble bottle of squeezed tomatoes. Heinz is my favorite brand, but any off-brand is acceptable when economic restraints are pursued during the weekly shopping ventures.
Last week a friend of mine invited a young lady and me to dine with him and his bride at a very fashionable Italian restaurant in North Dallas. The restaurant was most elegant. The motif was in early Renaissance with pictures of Mona Lisa, the city of Florence and Venetian canal landscapes covering a large part of the walls. The cutlery was heavy, the crockery large, and candlelight was diminished. The tablecloth was thick and dark rich red in color. It was so long that I kept getting my leg and shoes caught in the ends as it tumbled toward the floor. Our host ordered a large bottle of a red wine.
The menu items were extensive in length. Entrees were described sometimes where I recognized only a few of the words. Like chicken Giardino. I know that is chicken. But what kind of chicken? Shrimp Primavera. Is that like fried shrimp or what? Then there was Cannelloni al Forno. I didn’t know what any of that was. Everyone else talked excitedly about what they were going to order and why. I looked everywhere for something that said #1 large burger and fries. The waiter, who spoke with an accent that sounded Jamaican, took our order and suggested that I might like the Manicotti Formaggio. Sounded good to me. Maybe that meant bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.
Our order arrived all hot and steamy, with a decorum of excitement. My meal was a bubbling mass of cheesy stuff that appeared to wink at me when placed on the table. I didn’t know whether to eat it or cover it with the napkin. I wanted to hide it, but the tablecloth was down to the floor and I couldn’t set it under the table. Then an idea washed across me like the great Jonestown flood. In a clear and decisive voice I called the waiter to the table. “Sir, could I have a bottle of ketchup please?” The noise ebbed, then stilled in the dining area. Only faint sounds from the kitchen could be heard. To show that I knew what I was doing, and with an air of degreed sophistication, I added. “And make that Heinz ketchup if you would.” My host immediately ordered another bottle of wine and my date excused herself, as she fled toward the ladies room.
Fortunately things went pretty well after that. My date finally returned to the table and people eventually quit looking our way and whispering. After about 20 minutes, with a small bottle of ketchup in hand, the waiter returned mumbling about just having returned from the local 7-11. For some reason, he never would talk to me after that.
Our kind host paid the bill and when asked by my date, agreed to give her a lift home. Just as I exited the door the restaurant manager made a whispering suggestion. He stated that pizza was a great Italian food and both Pizza Hut and Little Caesars had home delivery service.
Later, driving toward home alone, I went over this experience in great detail. Well, I guess things went well after all. I came to the conclusion that Italian food was alright, but should be eaten only in annual doses. Traffic was light so my arrival at home came swiftly. Exiting the garage, I realized that I was still hungry. Well, there is nothing like a ketchup sandwich and glass of buttermilk before going to bed.
Durhl Caussey is a syndicated columnist who writes for papers across America. He may be reached at this paper or fax # 972-709-6989 or firstname.lastname@example.org.