The Anti-Ketchup Food Manifesto

Ketchup may actually be the perfect icon of all the things that are wrong with North American food culture. Every package sold is symbolic of the distance between the production of raw materials from the earth and what people consume. At most points in history, diet has been dictated by what foods were available in the neighbouring environment. Now there is such a huge range of items available for people of all income levels that no one can blame poverty for their choice to eat non-foods like ketchup.

Personally I hate the stuff. When I worked as a server I had to clean bottles of oozing tomato-like fluid off of tables. I’d get queasy staring down at the rags stained red as a bandage over a war wound, seeing in it the coagulated arteries of North America. But the Anti-Ketchup Manifesto is not about my personal vendetta against the stuff. Even if you happen to love the edible red gunk, please consider embracing my anti-ketchup manifesto. Sign below to declare that you are radically against all food which has any or all of the following qualities:

  1. It has a lot of visual appeal, but no real taste Yes, a colour that bright is compensating for something — a suffocating, bland flavour. Your eyes look at the bright bottle and justly expect an explosion on the tongue, only to realize later that some jerk in marketing has been playing a trick on your taste buds. If there were any justice, the food manufacturing sectors would be forced to divert money away from the cycle of pretty labels and advertising, and into the food itself. If this ever happens, I personally promise to buy everyone at the University of Manitoba a round of drinks — alcoholic or otherwise.

  2. It’s a brand driven “food” item. Everyone who has had the misfortune to grow up eating North American food knows that “ketchup” is synonymous with the brand Heinz. Then other companies have gone and spent energy on making imitations instead of coming up with other sauces that might be more interesting, which couldn’t be hard.

  3. It’s used everywhere, and always excessively. People don’t so much consider where, when and how much ketchup to use; they just unthinkingly coat their palates with it. No one devotes any time to experiencing the flavours, because it is a convenience food without anything in it worth savouring. Unlike tofu, which actually mixes well with other ingredients, ketchup is the culinary equivalent of a bed bug infestation that contaminates its surroundings with an insipid aftertaste.

  4. Kids are taught to like it. We aren’t born with innate food preferences. Kids can be just as easily raised to like eggplant, couscous or capers, but somehow people have it in their heads that children innately like ketchup. It then becomes a vicious cycle as these youngsters grow up into taste-stunted adults who perpetuate all the same food complexes and poor eating habits practiced today.

  5. It’s modern, cheap and tasteless. If it weren’t for the very brief list of ingredients on the back, nothing about a ketchup bottle would make anyone think “food.” It could just as easily be a bottle of novelty cleaning solution or an extremely large container of finger paints. The fact is it’s actually a lot more useful in the latter case, as I can witness having had to wipe away many a pre-school masterpiece.

  6. It provokes no strong positive feelings in anyone. In spite of all the people who use it, genuine ketchup aficionados are few and far between. Take all the sensuality, passion and appetites that food has evoked in art — poetry, books, movies, etc. — then try to imagine anyone ever writing an “Ode to Ketchup.” It isn’t likely to be featured in any romantic love scenes, and trying to use it as body paint would be about as sexy as chewing on scabs.

  7. It tastes the same everywhere. There is no real variation in ketchup recipes. People buy it in a store as opposed to making their own. There are no family recipes for ketchup passed down through generations.

  8. You have to eat copious amounts to have an impact. With most sauces, you only add a little before your dish takes on a whole new aroma. With ketchup your food needs to be completely smothered in it for you to taste it at all. That is, if you actually want to taste it.

  9. It has absolutely no nutritional value. Beyond a passing reference to tomatoes made somewhere in the advertising, the only thing in ketchup is sugars and preservatives. True, it’s offered in hygienic packing and there’s no studies proving that it will lead to cancer or premature hair loss, but that doesn’t make it worth eating in dubious quantities. If it doesn’t go bad easily, that’s because it was never good in the first place.

  10. It is used with other poor food choices. Chances are pretty good that you probably last ate ketchup with one of the following foods: hot dogs, French fries, Kraft Dinner or the hash browns and rubbery eggs of a diner breakfast. All of these are foods that are also guilty of perpetuating the practice of eating as a mechanical act of “fuelling” your body without nurturing it. Nor are any of these items necessarily any cheaper than buying, you know, real food.

I [name], agree to the points made in this manifesto, and hereby swear to spread them like I would a far superior condiment on a hamburger bun

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