The Poor Man’s Sauce

By | June 23, 2022
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The Poor Man’s Sauce

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, and 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 the dense fog. At every meal we stopped to eat along the way, no matter what food was served, you could bet it would be smothered in 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 the industry’s greed for higher profits, cheaper ingredients, and 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 to save money, they used HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) instead of real 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, and learn 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’ll probably think I’m making this up, but I’m not. One time, long ago,  (and my youngest son can verify this), I was stopped returning to 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.

Driving hours and hours just to find real ketchup isn’t 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 –  plastic bottles with pointed hollow tops – the hollow tip was great for 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 air conditioning– and the smell of the local ketchup factory making real ketchup from that summer’s harvest of real, red, ripe tomatoes. They did not use canned tomatoes and tomato paste from Argentina, Chile, 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 precious memories of those gentle days of my youth. Waking up in my bed, in my own room at my grandparent’s 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. They 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, and how long have they been held hostage in a can?

French’s – the mustard people –now makes ketchup – and it’s pretty good actually. It’s made with real sugar – no HFCS. And now Hunt’s makes 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 great beer! And I love the real cream and butter! Why aren’t Canadians fatter?

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 amusing or interesting.

If you love ketchup, I’m going to tell you where you can get real ketchup, made from real tomatoes and it tastes a lot like the aroma from the ketchup factory of youth – the one I used to wake up to on those late summer mornings long ago. It’s an aroma I’ll never forget.

It’s called Sir Kensington’s Ketchup and it’s available – and I hate to say this – at Walmart — and probably many other places. Beware, it’s not cheap, but it’s good and it’s honest.

Sir Kensington’s Ketchup… the ketchup makeover you didn’t even know you were waiting for. Made with a short list of wholesome ingredients like vine-ripened crushed tomatoes, flavorful onions and green peppers and Fair Trade Organic cane sugar for a thicker, richer, tomato-ier ketchup. Ingredients: Tomatoes, Tomato Paste, Fair Trade Organic Cane Sugar, Water, Onions, Distilled Vinegar, Salt, Lime Juice Concentrate, Green Bell Peppers, Allspice

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 the memories of my childhood and those are treasures I’ll never forget.

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

They say ketchup is the poor man’s sauce…but it’s a lot more than a sauce to me.

2 thoughts on “The Poor Man’s Sauce

  1. Ruby Mailander

    I JUST LOVED your story about ketchup, yep, I live in Canada, where it is REALLY good 🙂

  2. Deb

    Found this very interesting i Hold The Same Sentiments towards Mayo !
    Hellman’s has forgone the wonderful Thickens it once had .Its now thinner in consistency and lacks the once loved great taste it always had for me .
    My Who Cares Deb, Opinion is they have reduced the amount of eggs used . Plus other things that i am not so inclined to read the ingredients to find out . i recently found DUKES sold in some stores but not on a regular basis in NJ
    It’s A SOUTHERN BASED Product. it is Pricey But Hellman’s in our area has Gone close to if not over $5.00 ! Even the NEW SALE Price’s are Ridiculous in most place’s Aldi’s has Mayo Named Burmans and it’s pretty good too at a much lower cost then store brand named Mayo Thanks ! i really wanted to rant about this !!


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