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Ketchup or Catsup

By Newt Harlan


Which do you use ketchup or catsup? The three dictionaries I use say that both words are correct, although ketchup is the preferred choice for the slightly sweet, tomato based sauce, flavored with vinegar and spices. Ketchup is the number one condiment in the free world, especially in North America. It has greater sales, is used more often, on more things and in more dishes, than any other condiment. Only mustard comes close.

One would think children and teenagers are the biggest users of ketchup, due to the influence of TV, fast food places and etc. Believe it or not, according to several food industry sources, as many adults as kids use the stuff. Most of the kitchens in the U.S. Have a bottle of ketchup. We pour it on hotdogs, hamburgers, meat loaf, eggs and use it in many other dishes such as sloppy Joes, beans, chili and barbecue sauces. And don’t forget French fries. Most folks don’t think French fries are French fries without ketchup to dip them into.

An old friend of mine will take a 1-1/2” thick rib eye steak grilled to perfection and cover it with a half bottle of ketchup before even tasting it. Of course, this same individual claims a strong aversion to garlic, yet eats everything I cook, and I put garlic into everything except cakes, and I don't bake cakes… Hmmm, the thought just occurred to me, maybe that’s why he uses so much ketchup.

Anyway, the reason for this little essay isn't to explore the uses or spelling of ketchup or catsup, but to introduce you to an easy little trick to get the ketchup to come out of the glass bottle when it just flat refuses to budge.

We've all been there, sitting in front of a plate of steaming French fries or some fried onion rings or something just crying to be dipped in a little ketchup and popped into your mouth. Clearing off a little place on your plate just the right size for your ketchup, you pick up the bottle of ketchup and remove the cap, aiming the opening in the bottle at the space you've prepared. Giving the bottle a tentative little shake yields nothing, so you shake it again a couple of times, harder than before…still nothing.

By now you’re getting a bit frustrated and turn the bottle to inspect the hole to see if the seal might still be in place or something… Nope, nothing down there but ketchup, so you stick the blade of your knife or the handle of your fork into the hole, stir it around and try it again. Still no ketchup except what’s on your silverware and that you got on your shirt where you touched it with ketchupy fingers.

Now you’re mad, it’s you against the damned ketchup bottle and, by gum you’re stronger and smarter than any dang ketchup bottle. You shake again and still no ketchup. Okay, enough of this…you shake the bottle violently, at the same time pounding it on the bottom with your other hand until…Plop! Half the dang bottle dumps all over your plate, in your lap, over half your table and even some on your neighbors at the adjoining table.

My friends, there’s a better way…All you do is simply clear the area on your plate where you want to put the ketchup. Pick up the bottle of ketchup and remove the cap and look to make sure that the seal has been removed from the opening. Hold the bottle with one hand down near the bottom and the opening pointing to the place that you’ve made ready for the ketchup. With your free hand gently “karate chop” the bottle at the point where the big part necks down to the little part, you may have to chop for a few seconds, but soon the ketchup will begin to flow right where you want it…Now wasn't that easy, your blood pressure is a lot lower, and your clothes along with those of your tablemates are a lot cleaner.

Of course you can forget all this if the ketchup is in one of those little squeeze bottles.

Copyright Newt Harlan


* * * * *

Newt Harlan has a B.S. From Sam Houston University in Huntsville, Texas. After working as a bartender, locomotive fireman, oilfield roughneck, spending 4 years in the U.S.A.F. during the Vietnam era and 35 years as an itinerant steel salesman, he is now semi-retired, dabbling in steel sales, and writing. His fiction has appeared in USA Deep South, Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal and DeadMule.Com. among others.


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