There are seventeen different types of tomato ketchup to choose from in Waitrose. Ketchup is one of the few things I don’t eat, yet here I am hypothetically asking myself which I would buy if I were here to buy it. Dr. Wills is the most expensive by far. An attractive label – exclamation mark fashioned from a squirt of ketchup – it looks modern, fun, has energy. Then there’s Geo Watkins Ketchup, a more retro bottle, medicinal, like something you might have seen on the shelves of an apothecary a hundred years ago between cod liver oil and dried witch hazel. On closer inspection, I see that Geo Watkins is a mushroom ketchup. I might like that. Perhaps my accidental research into ketchup has not been wasted after all. Look, there’s a bottle of Bloody Mary ketchup. I’ve never been one for a Bloody Mary, the only time I ever drank it was once in Donegal, on New Year’s Day, must be twenty-five years ago. We’d been partying all night long and got up at about two in the afternoon and someone had a fabulous idea that we should go for a swim and we ran into the sea at Sheephaven Bay for the fastest dip of my life and then we all went back up to the pub and an order of Bloody Marys appeared at the table. On the one day my body was crying out for hot whiskey, I was given something thick, spicy, strong and cold! Not that it had ketchup in it, but I always think that drinking tomato juice is like drinking watery ketchup, yuk. What’s this one… Tanya’s Just Real Fiery Fiasco Ketchup. Well that’s too much of a mouthful for anyone. Can you imagine calling to so-and-so as they leave to do the shopping – ‘don’t forget the milk and remember that we’re all out of Tanya’s Just Real Fiery Fiasco Ketchup.’ Not going to happen. Tanya’s label is far too busy by half. I bet Tanya is the sort of woman who wears fifteen necklaces at once and her kitchen windowsill is a clutter of every little thing she has seen when she’s been out for a walk and couldn’t leave behind: acorn, feather, sea glass, pinecone, teasel head, clam shell – I know her type; she’s had her children’s artwork stuck to her fridge since 1983. Wow, £3 a bottle. That’s even more expensive than Dr. Wills. And the ketchup isn’t even red. It’s a kind of pale orange. It doesn’t look like ketchup at all. Maybe I would like it. What’s in it anyway? Cherry Tomatoes, Cucumber, Rapeseed Oil, Olive Oil, Orange Juice, Raspberry, Red Onion, Grape, Pineapple, Chili Pepper, Apple, Agave Syrup, Garlic, Water, Rice Vinegar, Basil, Ginger. Mmm… it sounds like a smoothie with all that fruit. I think Tanya must have run out of the old basic Heinz one day, pulled together the scrapings of her fruit bowl, zuzzed them up, added a few tomatoes, then passed it off to her unsuspecting offspring as ketchup. But why would she call it a ‘fiasco’? What kind of reverse psychology is going on there? Oh! I like the look of this one. If ever I did take a sudden liking to the stuff (not that it’s ever going to happen) I’d go for this – Tiptree. Everything about it is tasteful: the shape of the bottle, the minimalist label, the matte silver lid. The bottle would look nice empty: long and narrow, perfect for three daffodils. Gets my vote for aesthetics. £2.40 is a bit steep to be buying it for the jar alone though, and I have no visitors these days to feed the ketchup to. I wonder if I could persuade myself into liking ketchup. A smidgen on a bacon roll, that could be my entry level, like Babycham for someone who doesn’t like alcohol. Hey! Look at you, Leon, I nearly missed you – beetroot ketchup, of all things. Nice label, simple, bright, cheerful rays of colour, and I love your confidence at emblazoning your name all over a bottle of ketchup, But here’s the question: Is beetroot ketchup really a ketchup? Have you, Leon, like Tanya and her ‘Just Real Fiery Fiasco’, wandered so far from ketchup’s terms of reference that you’ve metamorphosized into some other form of condiment altogether? Have you muscled your way onto this shelf under false pretences? Now, I admit that I’m not the invigilator who examines adherence to the basics of what constitutes a true ketchup, but, were I to hold that position (and – I say this modestly – I believe I would be an excellent candidate), I think I would respectfully contest Leon’s station in the ketchup aisle and lobby for alternative placement, say in the relish section. Anyway, it’s just as well I don’t like ketchup, otherwise I’d be here all day choosing and I really don’t have the time. What I do like and need is mustard. On we go. There are only twenty-six of those to choose from. Mustard, mustard, which mustard do I fancy?

One thought on “Ketchup

  1. Thanks for your entertaining writing, as always! Ketchup eater I am not, but read it anyway for entertainment . Respectfully, I would have settled for metamorphosed. More is doing a Tanya!

    Liked by 1 person

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