« Zoot alors! McBistro secret is out | Main | Cures for the "Irish flu" »

March 17, 2010

My ramekin overfloweth

ketchupShallow Thought Wednesdays guru John Lindner wants some ketchup. Is that too much to ask? LV  

Large scale disasters, like freak weather events, blogger retirements and national elections, devastate us in groups. But the small afflictions we bear alone. If we are civilized, we suffer them quietly, fearing to bore our dear ones or inspire them to think us petty. Big, bold disasters either kill or strengthen us. But the small hurts, toothpick jabs to the soul, are the ones that age and enfeeble. So it is with ketchup.

Receiving the ketchup bottle after the fries have cooled is a disappointment that must be carried off with a sigh. I rarely handle it that gracefully, but nevertheless take comfort in knowing that I at least recognize how I should behave. Further, I’ve whined about late ketchup before (I’m not obsessed, I’m bruised, OK?), so I mention it now only as a benchmark of regret. Because a new affront is afoot.

At what point of refinement does a restaurant’s décor demand that bottles of condiments be hid from view? It’s a thing one can’t quantify. One just knows instinctively, particularly if one’s been raised by my mom. You walk into a place and sense, we will not find a Heinz squeezy in this place.

In these places they serve the Red Condiment — always with the unspoken condescension “Well! If you must use kat-sup,” like it’s a moral weakness — in a miniature ramekin.

Surely you’ve seen it. The little white ramekin? It’s the same diminuative size wherever you go, as if there’s but one producer: some unmarked, concrete-block factory in the Qinghai province that churns them out and ships them overseas by the bargeload.

And the things are contemptuously tiny. It’s veritable rationing! Is there a real war on? “Ladies, turn in your pantyhose! We need the nylon for our paratroopers!”

The one-size-fits-all attitude of the ketchup ramekin strikes a blow to our dignity. The condenscending message, “Surely this will be enough for you,” is etched along the curve of the server’s sneer as he sets it on the table and quickly backs away as from a leper or a roach. And worse, to my utter humiliation, it often is enough – as if the Qinghai has me figured out right down to the mili-ounce.

True, the injury inflicted is as insignificant as the ramekin itself, but that’s the point, I guess. Picnics are more frequently spoiled by the ant than the Autan.


Photo by David Grant, courtesy Stock Xchng

Posted by Laura Vozzella at 2:18 PM | | Comments (18)


Bravo! Bravo, sir.

Now I want fries & ketchup...

And hey, speaking of tiny ketchup servings, know what I hate? Those little paper cups that certain... ahem... bistros force us to use for our ketchup. You know the place I'm talking about. Due to our innate hoarding tendencies, we're no longer trusted with ketchup packets (at least it hasn't come to THIS yet), so we're forced to fill up these tablespoon sized cups. The problem - they're far too small for dunking fries, and lack the convenient dispensing method of a traditional ketchup packet.

Oh, and "Oops." HTML fail.

jl, you know how to find the con in condiment. Nothing says klassy like a puddle of theater blood in white porcelain. And when it's not served in the original container, I'm thinking it came from a big vat of generic. If the place you're eating in is serving french fries and it's in America, it shouldn't be too finicky to place the Heinz bottle on the table.

Sean, your prayers have been answered. Ketchup packet scientists have been working day and night to accommodate the need to dunk AND squeeze.

I'm divided on the subject. Yes, i want my ketchup in the bottle. I like LOTS of ketchup, saltand vinegar, thank you. ( yeah it's a sauce made with almost straight HFCS, but you have to live a little sometimes. I'm not eating fries for my health after all.) I also know for a fact that 99% of places NEVER clean the bottles, wipe them down etc. Germ City, first stop on the way to what is usually a finger food. Stop making me want fries.. it's not fair!

Great post from beginning to end.

I suppose you order tap water with your meal instead of the mineral? How gauche.

Meekrat, when I was growing up my mother would want to go out for Chinese food (actually insert a derogatory term for Chinese people here) and then request to sit as far away from the kitchen as possible. She was of the if I don't know, it won't hurt me school.

So, I grew up enlightened enough to realize that you should say "Chinese food" and not the term she used. But, still mom's kid enough to say (at some point although I am admittedly a germaphobe) "what I don't know won't hurt me".

Too much knowledge is sometimes not helpful!

And on a side note, although related swerve, I do note that all the ketchup bottle pics used thus far are, of course, Heinz. We may hate the Steelers but we love that Heinz ketchup!

federal hal - I did a semester in London while in college, and my friend and I would go out for the cheapest (decent) meals we could find in order, of course, to save all our money for the pubs on the weekends. At an Italian place in Soho, (£5 for spaghetti bolognese) when the waiter inquired as to our drink order we said water. "Mineral water?" was the reply. No, just flat water. "(Disdainful sniff) Well, you know, it will come from the sink, then."

Is anyone else concerned that the new ketchup packet was designed to be used WHILE driving? "Drivers wanted something that sat on the armrest." Tests were done in a mini-van.

Is anyone else concerned that the new ketchup packet was designed to be used WHILE driving?

Oh gack.

While studying abroad in Australia, i found they are particularly stingy with their ketchup, they just dont understand the american desire to dunk fries in ketchup and that it takes multiple packets to accomplish it correctly

what is gack? is that like some old people saying like 23 skidoo? this place is sooooo old

(genuflects, at your genius)

chaibro, get off my lawn you g.d. punk!

We may hate the Steelers but we love that Heinz ketchup!

Joyce, it is because of the Steelers that there are no Heinz products in my house.

As Owl would say, that's the way I roll.

Hope you're all happy.. i got five guys fries with loads of ketchup, salt and vinegar... temptation too strong.... oh, my tummy hurts...going to go prostrate myself on the couch.

Sorry your stomach hurts Meekrat, but wasn't it worth it!! If I hadn't had boardwalk fries last nite from my pit beef place, I would definitely get some because of this post!

If you are eating food in GB, does it really matter what you wash it down with?

Post a comment

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

Top Ten Tuesdays
Most Recent Comments
Baltimore Sun coverage
Restaurant news and reviews Recently reviewed
Browse photos and information of restaurants recently reviewed by The Baltimore Sun

Sign up for FREE text alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for dining text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Food & Drink newsletter
Need ideas for dinner tonight? A recommendation for the perfect red wine?'s Food & Drink newsletter is there to help.
See a sample | Sign up

Stay connected