Here’s the deal. This week’s reader’s suggestion comes from my friend, Danny. And, while many restaurants have switched to plastic, who among us hasn’t experienced his frustration with the futility of the glass ketchup bottle? Of course, it’s not that we’ve got something against ketchup, quite the opposite. We so adore this condiment that we rue the day this vexing container was designed.
In 1687, Newton published his Law of Universal Gravitation. A hundred and fifty years later, this law was disproved when the first ketchup bottle was turned upside down…and nothing came out. It’s not that a new bottle of ketchup pours slowly – you can actually hold it over your fries indefinitely and not an iota will exit. Each individual drop of ketchup will link arms with its pasty friends in the ultimate act of flavor defiance. What’s wrong ketchup? Don’t you want to be on the fries? Don’t you want to make our food delicious? It is your destiny.
Then again, tomatoes have always been confounding. Biologically, they’re fruits. But, in Nix V. Hedden, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that tomatoes were to be classified as a vegetable (it’s good to know that our nation’s highest judicial institution utilizes their collective legal minds to tackle the important issues of the day). It’s pretty cool, actually. The tomato is simultaneously a fruit and a vegetable. Can you imagine? That would be like being biologically a human, but legally a monkey (I think I just described most of the cast of Jersey Shore). The tomato is the state vegetable of New Jersey and Arkansas and the state fruit of Ohio – this fruitable is out of control!
Then there’s the whole ketchup/catsup issue. Catsup? Please. I won’t even dignify this feline spelling of our most popular condiment with a full paragraph.
So, how am I going to do it? How will I get this red river of goodness out and onto my plate? Over the years, people have invented various solutions to the ketchup bottle problem, with increasing levels of violence. It starts with an aggressive shake. This typically has no results, save to anger the ketchup, therefore solidifying its resolve to never move. As one’s frustration increases, they will move on to the bottle spank – physically assaulting the backside of the glass container as if this punishment will make the ketchup think twice about defying gravity (sometimes, getting spanked makes the ketchup cry…as evidenced by the fact that the first few drops out of the ketchup bottle are just water/tomato tears). Fed up (because they are still unfed), the diner will now resort to the ultimate act of violence – actually stabbing the ketchup. Thrusting the knife upward into the ketchup bottle in a disturbing act of tomato homicide is the consumer’s last option. And it often works. The bottle, concerned that this could escalate to gun play, will force the ketchup out, fearing for its own safety.
Still, it seems like a lot of work. One would expect the ketchup to flow of its own accord. No matter how many times I see it, it’s still a marvel that one can turn the bottle upside down and its fluid contents can simply refuse to move. It’s as if tomatoes skipped school the day they taught gravity, as if the condiments all called in sick when the teacher reviewed the difference between a liquid and a solid, as if ketchup is simply taking the “up” part of its name a little bit too literally.
And now, of course, we have a whole new set of problems with the squeeze bottles. Not the least of which is the remarkably rude sound the ketchup makes upon its exit. Fortunately, I understand this important issue will, this fall, finally reach the Supreme Court.