Sheila Sybrant

I have lots of things to feel guilty about — some warranted and some not so much — but using ketchup is not one of them.

Not that people haven’t tried to somehow make me feel like a criminal for dousing certain foods with the red condiment. Many have tried — but failed.

If I were using drugs, you would be justified in making me feel guilty. But using ketchup?

Heck, it’s almost a vegetable, and vegetables are good for you — they make you healthy and strong. In the 1980s, the USDA proposed regulations that, among other things, would have allowed more foods to count as vegetables. One of those foods was ketchup.

The ketchup-as-a-vegetable debate arose again in 2011 when sparring occurred over whether pizza with tomato paste on it could count as a vegetable. Although tomato paste is not quite ketchup, the parallel to the 1980s debacle was too close to ignore.

I do feel a certain sense of vindication in thinking about the tomato base of ketchup and its corresponding dose of vitamins A and C. But, admittedly, any possible health benefits are not why ketchup is a staple in my house. I just love the taste.

I have loved ketchup ever since I can remember. Mostly, my parents were fine with this — probably because we usually ate at home or at establishments where ketchup came in packets.

But one time when my grandparents came to visit, we went out to a fancy Spanish restaurant. I was probably in the vicinity of 8 years old, old enough to know that we were in a posh establishment but too young to care.

What I cared about was getting something good to eat. And, honestly, nothing on the menu looked particularly good. (What were my parents thinking?) I finally settled on duck with grape sauce — my dad said it was the closest thing to plain chicken that was offered.

My food came, and I gamely tried it. It definitely needed something to improve it. I told my dad that I’d like some ketchup. He was aghast. Horror of horrors! I had asked for ketchup in a fine dining establishment. I had asked for ketchup for my duck with grape sauce.

Much as he loved me, my dad was embarrassed and did not want to ask the waiter for ketchup. My grandfather, who was old enough to not care what people thought, did the asking — and I happily set about making a lake of ketchup on my plate for my duck to swim in. A definite improvement.

As an adult, I still love ketchup, regardless of whether the food needs improvement. I especially love it on meat: hamburgers, roasts and steaks.

Some people find it particularly sacrilegious that I enjoy ketchup on steak. They consider steak a high-end food and ketchup a low-end condiment. I think it is completely unwarranted for people to be snobby about ketchup.

And no matter what anyone says, I am in good company. Ketchup is one of the most popular condiments. While salsa and sriracha are, according to a number of articles, giving ketchup a run for its market money (which numbers in the billions each year), ketchup is not leaving consumers’ homes anytime soon.

Nevertheless, there are probably a lot of people who have been traumatized by ketchup shaming. I won’t back down from this bullying, though. I am stronger than that. After all, I’ve had more than my share of helpings of vegetables.

Readers may contact Sybrant at svsybrant@gmail.com or 45092 859th Road, Bassett, NE 68714

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