Sunday, October 5, 2014

I like mine with lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57 and french fried potatoes


No! No ketchup for you!
I recently read an article about a trendy restaurant in the Gulf Coast resort town of Fort Myers, Florida that has banned ketchup. The eatery, Mad Fresh Bistro, unapologetically declares on their website that they "reserve the right to refuse the service of ketchup to anyone over the age of 10." On another page, they clarify their stance in an even more arrogant fashion, stating — in so many words — the customer should "trust us" to serve your food the way we want to serve it, because "we know what we're doing." It seems that chef/co-owner Xavier Duclos ("KNOWN FOR HIS CULINARY HOMERUNS," as the website proudly describes), knows more about what you like eat than to you do. Well, I give him this much: he sure knows how to overcharge for a hamburger. Look, Mr. Duclos, if I'm paying fourteen bucks for a hamburger in your pretentious little strip-mall bistro, then I'm going to slather it with porcupine piss, if I so choose. You're still gonna get paid and your customer is gonna be satisfied. After all, isn't that the ultimate goal? Egos aside, of course.

"We don't have any hot dogs. We have Superdogs®"
This story brought to mind a piece I saw a year or two ago on one of my favorite cable channels, The Food Network. They featured a segment about hot dog stands around the country and stopped off at Superdawg®, a Chicago institution since the 1940s. The charming little drive-in (one of the few remaining in the United States) whose roof is crowned with two giant, anthropomorphic wieners, still boasts carhop service, thick milkshakes made with real hand-scooped ice cream and, of course, the gem of the menu, the Superdawg®. The owners, a quirky (and thoroughly irritating) couple named Maurie and Flaurie Berman, greet each customer with a friendly (and trademarked) "Hiya! Thanks for stopping!," but it's all downhill after that. If you ask for a "hot dog," these two relics will smugly reply "We don't have hot dogs." A confused customer will glance at the enormous twin frankfurters on the roof of the building in bewilderment. Not giving a crap about the potential of losing a customer, the elderly proprietors offer a cocky, pompous smile and, shaking their heads, inform the patron that they call their main fare a "Superdawg®." Sometimes they don't volunteer that information and let the customer walk. I guess it's worth it to them to lose a paying customer than to compromise the name that they — and only they — call hot dogs. In addition to standing firm as to how their hot dogs are referred and alienating customers, the Bermans are staunch anti-ketchup-ites. In a video on their website, they explain (using the most roundabout, convoluted, old-people logic) that they never thought ketchup belonged on a hot dog, so, based solely on that, no one should be permitted to have ketchup. They are like pro-lifers for condiments. These two altacockers even go so far as to call ketchup "an abomination." Actually, my wiener-hawking friends, female genital mutilation, as practiced in Yemen and Iraqi Kurdistan, is an abomination. Smearing some ketchup on a fucking hot dog is a matter of harmless culinary preference. A victimless crime, if you will.

Beavis says, "No ketchup, dude!"
Another establishment where poor ketchup garners no love is a little mainstay in the seaside resort of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware called Thrasher's. With three locations in the First State's seasonal vacation spot, the popular Thrasher's has been serving up giant tubs of hand-cut, fresh fried spuds for the beach-going crowd for eighty-five summers. But, once again, they are resolute about their contempt for ketchup. Thrasher's will cheerfully offer vinegar and salt. However, when it comes to ketchup, there is no misunderstanding. The sentiment is posted prominently on their limited menu. The counter-help display the message defiantly on custom-airbrushed trucker hats. Jesus! Look at the attitude on that smug little asshole! Don't you just want to push his smirking puss right into the goddamn deep fryer! Hey, you minimum-wage-earning motherfucker, if I'm forking over nearly ten bucks for French fries - one: they better be the best fries I have ever eaten in my life and two: if I want to drown them in ketchup, you are not going to impede upon my "freedom of tomato-based condiment right," as granted by the Constitution of the United States (38th amendment, I believe.).

"Ketchup? Catsup?"
What the heck is wrong with ketchup and why do some people have such a problem with it? For goodness sake, it's been around since the 17th century and came to this country from halfway around the globe! It's the second most popular condiment in the United States (after mayonnaise, because America's desire for oil and fat will never be satisfied). Why on earth should anybody be embarrassed by their use (or love) of this steadfast condiment*? The H. J. Heinz Company, who introduced the tomato-based, all-purpose food enhancement in 1876, produces and distributes over 650 million bottles annually... so, somebody must be using and enjoying it. The aforementioned establishments wouldn't need to put up such signs or make such brazen stipulations if someone wasn't asking for ketchup in the first place. Jeez! No wonder poor Mr. Burns is so perplexed.


*With the possible exception of my brother-in-law, whose barbaric overuse of ketchup borders on obscene.

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