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Jul 31, 2006 01:48 AM

Speaking of ketchup, do you think it's really "perfect"?

Recent posts about ketchup got me thinking about the condiment, which I hadn't done in awhile. Outside of the ususal suspects (hot dogs, hamburgers) and as an occasional recipe component, I don't use ketchup much. However, as a kid I was crazy for the stuff, using it to top everything from baked potatoes to buttered noodles to rice. Anyway, a trip to Wikipedia led me to the following article: http://www.gladwell.com/2004/2004_09_...

The article theorizes that Heinz ketchup and its ilk basically strike a perfect balance amongst all 5 primary flavor componenets (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami). As a result, the article says, we'll never experience a Grey Poupon movmement with ketchup--the plain old version we all know will always dominate the market because any attempt to improve upon ketchup inevitably leads to throwing the flavor profile out of balance.

Well, the article made me feel better about my childhood fondness for ketchup--I wasn't simply being unadventurous, I was showing appreciation for a perfectly balanced food! That being said, I don't know if I completely buy the article's argument. For one thing, it seems a little U.S.-centric. Heinz, Hunt's, etc. may be synonymous with ketchup to those of us in the United States, but that's not the case with the entire world. I read once that Russians are wild about ketchup, and there it comes in many different variations and is sometimes used as a sauce rather than a codiment. Plus, if you take a look at the Ketchup World web site, http://www.ketchupworld.com/ketchupne... , you'll find all different kinds of ketchup from around the globe.

So, what do you think? Is ketchup as we know it in the U.S. a condiment that cannot be improved upon? Do we know something the rest of the world doesn't? Or do they know something we don't? Or maybe ketchup is just appreciated differently in different places?

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  1. I posted a similar query on mayonnaise -- I asked whether there was something out there better than Hellman's. Someone suggested the Southern brand "Duke's," I now buy it in large quantities.
    I would like to try "Brook's" ketchup b/c people on the board have been talking about it and I find Heinz's a touch too sweet. So, yes I think it can be improved upon. My guess is that only slight variations would be acceptable to our palates, but who knows, Heinz or something similar is all that's sold in supermarkets. I would love to try the European brands as well.

    1. Brook's Ketchup was always my mom's favorite. I whined for Hunt's. What did I know, I was a kid. Brook's is somehow more strongly flavored, with a pronouced tomato-y vinegar-y TANG.

      3 Replies
      1. re: LisaAZ

        I can't go back to other catsups after Brooks. It is much more complex that Heinz or Hunts. If I had to I'd order it on line and gladly pay the shipping. It is worth it.

      2. I have often said food as we know it can be looked at as nothing more than a delivery system for ketchup or peanut butter. I can't think of a food that can't be improved by adding one of them (in some form) to the bowl.

        I should point out, though, I have never mixed PB with ketchup. I fear the universe might just implode.

        1. I also like Brook's. But I think one of the factors here in the US market is that Heinz has been so pervasive that they have defined for most of the population what ketchup is "supposed" to taste like.

          1. I used to eat ketchup with white rice; thought it was divine.

            Not anymore.

            Still love ketchup, however.

            Goes great with plain toast, hash browns, scrambled eggs, sausages ... basically the full panoply of goodies that comes with a Denny's Grand Slam breakfast (yes, even the pancakes).