The other day Brit Boy and I had a 45 minute conversation regarding ketchup. It started off innocently enough but quickly turned quite heated. I had mentioned in passing that my kids will eat about anything as long as it has some ketchup (or any sauce) on the side. If I put a dollop of ketchup on the plate they will at least attempt to try steak, ribs, chicken, eggs, macaroni and cheese, (hell, just about any kind of food really….). Apparently, Brit Boy feels this “overuse” of ketchup is a huge faux pas in the American culture….
Firstly, can I say I do not have anything against ketchup, I like it, I actually want to make my own someday, but I definitely think it has its place. In the UK Ketchup is used but not to the extent as it is in my experience in America. It isn’t ever present on the tables in restaurants and bars, like other condiments such as salt and pepper. It’s almost always available if asked for but is never just there. It is always brought to the table if you order chips (fries in the US American Girl…..) or a burger or steak, mainly grilled or fast food but that’s really it. I just feel mortified to think that I prepared a more complex food to have it smothered in ketchup to make it palatable to kids. I think they should be made to try something with the flavors they have, rather than artificially enhancing it with a sugary condiment. After all what differentiates the foods you are giving kids or anyone else if it is always flavored the same, if its bland and flavorless, OK, but that shouldn’t be what we are giving our kids. I know kids are faddy (my own definitely have their moments) but I don’t want to give them the easy way out, I don’t want it to be the first or even second option, I would rather let them try it, not like it and review my culinary choices in future, than go to all the trouble of cooking something and have it massacred with our little red friend. I guess the issue I have is that it seems to be a lazy alternative for getting kids to eat, rather than a lovely enhancement to certain dishes.
While I agree with Brit Boy that ketchup (along with many other items in America) is probably used in excess (this is a country where “more” is a way of life after all), I do feel that when parenting small kids you pick your battles. To me ketchup is not that battle. As any parent of small kids can probably attest, getting a bite of food past finicky lips can be a near impossible feat, if ketchup is that fix, then why not? You must eat your veggies, and try a bit of everything. If you need some ketchup to go along for the ride, go for it. I would like to mention I feel Brit Boy does have a good point that it should not involve smothering ketchup on everything and that it does not teach kids proper etiquette if they are constantly asking for a side of ketchup with a nice cooked meal. However, this may be a losing battle in America.
According to a blog post by “Kitchen Daily”:
In the world of condiments, ketchup plays the role of America’s sweetheart. Ketchup has earned its rightful place on dinner tables and condiment stations worldwide.
(I should mention the post continues to say that foodies and critics may “passionately disagree”.) While I no longer “passionately disagree” with Brit Boy on this topic, I have definitely learned another difference between our two cultures, neither right nor wrong. Granted I will always think that split second longer whenever I decide to (or not to) pull the ketchup bottle out of the fridge…