Hate. It’s a powerful word. And I don’t want anyone to think that I’m belittling the seriousness of what has to be said, by ultimately pivoting away from it and talking about food.
Because before we talk about ketchup, we need to catch up a bit on some of the intense hatred that’s going around. And that’s a heavy load. Because while I’m incensed that the Jewish community continues to be targeted with a coordinated series of bomb threats, called into the places where our youngest children spend their days, at least for now they have all been hoaxes. And while the Jewish cemetery desecrations are deeply upsetting, nobody was physically injured.
The Indian community can’t say the same thing. Because Srinivas Kuchibhotla was shot and killed in a Kansas bar. Alok Madasani was also shot that night, but lived. A good Samaritan, Ian Grillot, was also shot trying to intervene. Whether or not you want to believe the reports that the shooter yelled “get out of my country” before shooting this Indian man, that’s on you.
You may or may not believe the bartender who told the 911 operator that the shooter admitted to killing “two Iranian people.” But the victims were Hindu.
So where did this gun-carrying American get the idea that brown immigrants are the enemy?
“White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Friday that any loss of life was tragic, but it would be absurd to link the killing to Trump’s rhetoric.” At least the Jewish community got some support from Spicer, and a prepared statement from the president.
The level of outrage and disgust I’m feeling right now are quite high. But as I’ve been reminded time and time again, this is a food blog. So I’m going to channel that outrage and disgust towards ketchup.
Fighting against ketchup is a much better battle than the fight over the internal temperatures of meat. At one point in my life, I might have thrown myself on the sword defending the glory of rare steak. And certainly, if I’m going to get a filet in a great steakhouse, I’m going to order that sucker black and blue. Because my desire is to get as much sear and flavor on that meat, while still preserving its silky core.
But over the years, I’ve learned a new respect for well done meat. Dimitrios cooked a well done leg of lamb low and slow at The City Beer Hall. That meat was just magic. And leg of lamb is one of those meats that I’ve historically enjoyed on the rare side. For a while, the high heat lamb roast was my signature dish.
Of course there are other cuts of meat, like rib eyes, that need a little more time and a deeper cook to really melt the fat and connective tissue to maximize the buttery pleasure that lies within.
Plus, with all the shenanigans that are going on with tenderizing meat and pushing exterior bacteria into the center of a steak, not to mentoin the sneaky uses of transglutaminase to connect smaller pieces of meat into one larger “steak”, those who are at risk of death from E. coli O157:H7 are wise to take precautions.
Ketchup, however, is nearly indefensible on anything but junk food.
“But I like ketchup,” you might say. Of course you do. It’s sweet, and it’s salty, and it’s acidic, and it’s packed with umami. You like it by design. It’s not your fault that you like it. Much like it’s not your fault that you like to breathe. Our bodies are programmed to respond to certain stimuli.
So you want to eat fast food fries that are cooked in heavily processed soybean oil, and top them with high fructose sweetened tomato paste? Be my guest. Just know that a tablespoon of ketchup has a teaspoon’s worth of sugar in it. And sometimes, we want our salty junk food to be sweeter. It’s why some people like taking those same french fries and dipping them in milkshakes.
I’m not trying to deny anyone their guilty pleasures.
But don’t for a second think that the ketchup that you buy in the grocery store is actually food. And as such, it has no business being anywhere near real food.
If you’re taking sustainably raised, local potatoes and frying them in rendered duck fat, they deserve a better fate than being topped with a factory made sauce. And it’s totally indefensible to take a fifty dollar steak and insist that it would be better with just a little bit of high fructose corn syrup.
Now, I’m not trying to shame or blame anyone. People are creatures of habit. Some of the behaviors we pick up along the way have a tendency to stick with us. What I am trying to do is shake people from their complacency. Both on the subject of ketchup and the subject of hate.
Let’s try to love one another. You don’t have to succeed. But let’s try. Okay?
And let’s try to leave the supermarket ketchup behind, in lieu of a gloriously wide world of other delicious sauces. French fries with a true Bordelaise sauce? Or Béarnaise? Or even dragged through a house made mayonnaise? Yes, please.
Now that my new diet is starting tomorrow, get prepared for some fatty fantasies.