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Condiment of a Continent

Caroline Broady

America’s blood runs red. Red as the artificial coloring in strawberry milkshakes. Red as the stitching on baseballs and Cincinnati’s team. Red as the stop signs at every intersection. Red as the juices seeping out of McBurgers. Most importantly, red as our nation’s favorite vegetable: ketchup.

Binding together burger patty with bun and bringing fried spuds to life, ketchup is truly the lifeblood of the American consumer. Ever since Heinz debuted 57 varieties of tomatoes in its ketchup, Americans have been striving to bring the obesity rate up to that number, as well. The billions of nine-gram packets scattered around food courts serve as the ultimate symbol of American consumerism. After all, the only thing freer than an American citizen is the complementary handful of ketchup packets that comes with every fast-food delicacy.

What it lacks in subtlety ketchup makes up for in its descriptive list of ingredients. The tomatoes are even more concentrated than Buddhist meditation. The onions aren’t chopped or pureed; they’re powdered. The inclusion of distilled vinegar is a nod to our British roots and our immortal bitter sentiment. The recipe also includes high fructose corn syrup, the national beverage. Deliciously ambiguous “natural flavor” provides an aura of intrigue to the list. However it is safe to assume that the secret ingredient is King George III’s tears.

The H. J. Heinz Company introduced tomato ketchup to the American consumer in 1876. This debut on the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence highlights ketchup’s significance in American history. Just as the first native Americans migrated from Asia, ketchup actually evolved from a Chinese ancestor: specifically, a fermented sauce of fish entrails.

Evolving to have roughly the same consistency as toothpaste, ketchup was destined to be the product foaming at the mouths of American citizens. However its coming of age into a fundamental aspect to the American experience has brought with it controversy. Many lives have been lost in the dispute over whether the lid should be on the top or the bottom. Who knows how many friendships have ended due to the conspiracy of ketchup terminology; is it ketchup, catsup or ambrosia? Nevertheless, the only reason ketchup has caused such disturbances is that Americans care; it is a cause worth fighting for. America is always ripe to relish in the glory of ketchup.

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