By | August 18, 2016
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They say that ketchup is the poor man’s sauce, whoever they are. They say a lot of things. They say what’s good for the goose is good for the gander too, but how many of you walk around calling male geese ganders? Not many, but THEY do. But I don’t want to talk about geese, ganders or what THEY say; I want to talk about ketchup.

My grandfather taught me a lot of things, most of the things he taught me have stuck with me my whole life — like my love of ketchup. I can remember going on vacation with my grandparents and watching grandpa smother fried eggs and hash brown potatoes in ketchup in restaurants from Michigan to Mississippi, from the Alleghenies of Pennsylvania to the agonies of driving through The Great Smoky Mountains in dense fog. At every meal we stopped to eat a long the way, no matter what food was served, you could bet it included ketchup.

So I come by my love of ketchup honestly. I was born and raised on the poor man’s sauce. But as I grew up, something changed, and it wasn’t my love of ketchup, it was the ketchup I loved. It seems in industry’s greed for higher profits, cheaper ingredients, the Holy Grail of ketchup, Heinz decided it could mess around with my beloved sauce and start making it from canned tomato sauce instead of fresh, red, ripe tomatoes. And to make matters worse, and in order to save money, the squirted it full of HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) instead of sugar.

I’m not going into great detail about the hazards of HFCS, but suffice it to say it’s got an extra molecule that doesn’t belong and one that causes the body to metabolize sugar like alcohol, that is, in the liver. Oh, you may doubt me, but you can look it up. HFCS is some nasty stuff — do some research, see how it’s made.

I don’t know exactly when Heinz pulled the plug on real ketchup and started selling the red stuff they called ketchup, but they couldn’t fool me. Before the current anti-HFCS craze, I used to drive several hundred miles and cross the border into Canada, just to get Heinz Ketchup made in Leamington, Ontario, Canada where they still made ketchup with real sugar and real tomatoes.

You probably think I’m making this up, but I’m not. One time, (and my youngest son can verify this), I was stopped returning the the USA by U.S. customs who found several dozen bottles of Canadian Heinz Ketchup in my car. The female customs agent, undoubtedly anxious to find some reason to detain me — smuggling ketchup? — finally gave up and let me back into the good, old U.S.A. with my precious cargo of 40+ bottles of real Heinz Ketchup. But I will never forget the look she gave me.

Obviously, driving hours and hours just to find real ketchup isn’t something that’s very practical, so I, like every other U.S. citizen gave into convenience and bought the so-called ketchup that Heinz was foisting upon the American public – American Heinz Ketchup — made from canned tomatoes and, worse, lots of HFCS.

American grocery store shelves were festooned with red bottles purporting to be ketchup, but only resembled slightly the real ketchup my grandfather squirted on his fried eggs.

I use the word “squirted” nostalgically, Back in those days, almost all restaurants and diners had those plastic ketchup things on the table – and mustard things too – those plastic bottle-like things with the pointed hollow tops – the hollow tip was great to squirting ketchup — and mustard – onto food in generous quantities. The ketchup in those plastic things was the real stuff. And they used to leave it sitting out on the table all the time, even overnight. No refrigeration required. Those were the days my friend.

Ketchup, you may think “pathetically”, is a big part of my life. I know you now think I need to get a life, but I don’t care. Ketchup means more than the poor man’s sauce to me. It’s more than the red oozing stuff that we dump on hamburgers or dip french fries in. It’s part of my childhood memories and those are more precious to me than gold.

I can remember waking up on late summer mornings at my grandparents’ house, the warm morning breeze, wafting through screened windows — they didn’t have central A/C – and the smell of the local ketchup factory making real ketchup from that summer’s harvest of tomatoes. They did not use canned tomatoes and tomato paste from Argentina, or Chile, or Brazil or heaven knows where, grown and canned who knows how long ago. The farmers brought their tomatoes to the ketchup factory and the ketchup factory turned them into ketchup by cooking them in big copper kettles and adding real sugar and spices. Yum! You could smell ketchup in the air for miles.

That smell was subtle and wonderful and sweet; it would later become sweeter when mixed with my memories of those gentle days of my youth. Waking up in my bed, in my own room at my grandparents house, smelling the aroma of freshly made ketchup and listening to the clanking of the big metal magnets at a nearby salvage yard, and the smell of burning autumn leaves — are all memories of a childhood lost — but never forgotten.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Heinz now makes something called “Simply Heinz” and it’s better than the stuff with HFCS in it, but it still uses canned tomatoes, grown who knows where and who knows how long ago. Of course you’ll have to pay a little more for it. The also make Heinz organic — but still not from fresh tomatoes, nope. Canned organic tomatoes – paste, puree, etc. They might be organic, but where were they grown, how long have they been held hostage in the cans?

French’s – the mustard people – is now making ketchup – and it’s pretty darned good acutally. It’s made with real sugar – no HFCS.  And now Hunt’s make an “All Natural” ketchup without HFCS, as well.

I don’t have to drive to Canada to get decent ketchup anymore. But, hey, Canada, you have really great beer!

If you’ve read this far, then you either really love ketchup, you’re extremely bored, or you find an older guy reminiscing about his childhood – interesting.

If you really love ketchup, I’m going to tell you where you can get real ketchup, made from real tomatoes (pureed) that tastes like the aroma from the ketchup factory of long ago – the one I used to wake up to on late summer mornings. The one I’ll never forget.

It’s called Wild Oats Organic Ketchup and it’s available – and how I hate to say this – at WalMart, as well as Wild Oats stores and Wholefood Markets. I opened my first bottle of it a couple of years ago, and I was transported back in time to a beautiful old home, on a beautiful old street, on a beautiful late-September morning, when I as a child felt like the luckiest kid on Earth because I had family that loved me.

And the smell of freshly made ketchup and the pungent odor of burning leaves serenaded by the clanking of the goings-on in the salvage yard down the street – are memories and treasures I’ll never forget.

The world has changed and sometimes the more things change, the more they remain the same.

They say ketchup is the poor man’s sauce…

but it’s a lot more than a sauce to me.

13 thoughts on “Ketchup

  1. Barb

    You are so fortunate to have had grandparents. Three of mine died before I was born and the other one lived in England. We never had ketchup, and still don’t. We buy sauce. Tomato sauce is a favourite, challenged now by Barbecue sauce. I don’t bother with any of them in my old age and don’t even know what all the alternatives are. I love chips (fries ?) but rarely buy them. I make them occasionally and serve with eggs and onions. I never heard of hash browns as a child, I was about 40 before I even discovered them in a restaurant and didn’t know what they were but I loved them, and still do. What different backgrounds we come from, it’s no wonder we sometimes misunderstand our friends from across the ocean. Thank you for this Ketchup post, it is very enlightening.

  2. Letitia

    When Heinz closed the Leamington plant, there was a huge backlash in Canada where people refused to buy Heinz ketchup. The French’s company stepped in, bought the factory and began making ketchup here from Canadian tomatoes. You might need a roadtrip someday…………!

  3. Linda

    OMG! Everyone thinks I’m nuts. I have been saying exactly what you have said for years. Even stopped eating Ketsup. I, like you, was raised by a dad who put it on everything. Have considered making it myself, but have to travel a long distance to get any decent organic tomatoes that have any flavor. I can also rant about watermelon and lots of other fruits and veggies whos flavors have been engineered out.

    Thanks for letting me know Im not alone out there. Love that old fashioned ketsup!




  5. Don

    As a logical first guess, I would think that the quality of Heinz Ketchup went bad when Mrs. Heinz married John Kerry!!!!!

  6. Ramona

    Love your essay. Time gone by but not forgotten, as long as we have our yester years.. as some would call it.
    Reading your words always bring back memories to me and others who share our maturity. I sure miss the tastes
    of times gone by but I still have the wonderful memories and with those I am happy and young forever. I am blessed with each new day until my time is over and until then I look forward to your essays down memory lane. Also keep
    enjoying your new found ketchup as you deserve enjoyment in your life and your memories bring that enjoyment.
    Have a blessed and wonderful new day today, and again thanks for the memories as well.

  7. Ramona

    Sorry about the messy reply above. My spacebar on my computer is not working well. When I was posting my reply it did not look too bad but after I hit the send button and reread what I posted, it doesn’t look well at all.

  8. Sondra

    Yes! It’s so true! You are so right about the Heinz ketchup!

    It was a terrible day when Heinz changed their ketchup ingredients. You have lots of company when it comes to bemoaning the fact that a great ketchup has become nothing but a pale imitation of itself. My dad and my husband were both ketchup lovers like you–even put ketchup on their steak–and it had to be Heinz. I have searched for years trying to find a replacement. Thanks for the tip about the Wild Oats Organic Ketchup.

    Loved this article! Thank you for sharing the sweet memories. M-m-m, the fragrance of fall and burning leaves…

  9. JDeC

    You don’t have to give up Heinz Ketchup, Heinz is marketing Simply Heinz, has Tomato concentrate, vinegar, natural flavorings and REAL sugar; I love it! you might too 😉

    1. infoave Post author

      It’s better than the HFCS, but still not made from “red ripe tomatoes” like the original Heinz. My current favorite is French’s 🙂

  10. Maxine Hunt

    I love hearing about the ‘good ‘ol days’ from other’s perspectives. I have my own memories and they include overnights at my grandparent’s house, like yours. That was where I learned how sweet dreams can be when you fall asleep on fresh, line-dried and ironed 100% cotton sheets, nestled in a feather pillow. My grandparents hunted mushrooms in the fall and butchered geese and chickens in their own backyard. Ever had blood sausage? It was love at first bite, but I haven’t tasted that fresh delicacy since the grandparents passed away. Whatever they’re selling that is called ‘blood sausage’ in the deli now is sure to be a disappointment.
    To me, life was uncomplicated then. My parents didn’t have the kinds of worries modern young parents today have. On the other hand, today’s youth aren’t concerned about the draft or polio or ice boxes.
    I often wish I could go back to my days as a kid, nevertheless. The better focus, however, is convincing my grand kids that their own childhood is precious and short-lived, even in America, and they need to look up from their devices once in a while and make memories of their own. They’ll treasure them when they’re older.

  11. Jean

    Yup! Ketchup isn’t ketchup anymore!! Here’s a recipe: 1/2 cup ketchup + 1/3 cup jalapeno jelly + 2 tablespoons honey; combine all. This was originally to brush on ribs every 10 minutes for the last 30 minutes of baking; but hey, try dipping your fries in that stuff Mmmm! Or top a meatloaf before baking!!! And another idea for your fries *** KC Masterpiece original BBQ sauce. I am hooked on it for my fries. Gheeze you have made me hungry.


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