Please welcome Aisha Saeed to the Vandal Blog today. In keeping with the intellectual standing of this prestigious blog, Aisha brings us today her thoughtful insights into topical subjects including multiculturalism, child rearing, the family and most importantly, exotic cuisines and the pleasures of the taste buds. Read and enjoy.

Like, What Is It With Kids And Ketchup?

A few days ago I noticed that Derek Haines was looking for a guest blogger. Intrigued, I inquired. Given the limited scope of his blog (you know, covering just about everything) I felt a bit confused as to how on earth I’d pick a topic. “You could write about anything,”
he said in his e-mail, “like, what is it with kids and ketchup?” That example struck me since at that moment I was eating hash browns, with ketchup.

I’m not sure what it is about kids and ketchup but it made me wonder as I held a bite full of ketchuped hash browns. What is it with me and ketchup?

Growing up as a Pakistani-American, my parents cooked primarily Pakistani dishes. Chicken Tikka. Seekh Kebobs. Kefta with Naan. You know, boring stuff. I craved the exotic: the meatloaf, burgers, beef tacos. Once in a while my mother would oblige with the occasional “American” entree, of course with a twist of chilli pepper or turmeric dashed in for good measure. The vast majority of our ventures into “American” food involved a side of ketchup. In fact, I doubt there were many non-Pakistani dishes we ate that did not involve ketchup. Ketchup was as essential to these meals as plates and forks. You could try eating without it, but that would just be weird.

Years later when I had my own kitchen, with my own stove to cook as I pleased I certainly made the Pakistani standards, the ho-hum chicken biryani or Haleem, but I enjoyed making American food too. I still remember sitting down with my husband for the first time to eat beef tacos.

“What are you doing?” he asked, staring at me as I held a jar of ketchup in my hand, poised to squeeze some some in after the cheese.

“Um, putting in the ketchup?” I said raising an eyebrow. “Relax I’ll give it to you when I’m done.”

He continued staring at me like I had sprouted a watermelon on my head. “What?!?” I finally asked him.

“No one puts ketchup on their tacos.”

“That’s not true!” I insisted, “Everyone does.”

“Oh yeah? That’s why you see so many ketchup packets at Mexican restaurants?”

I paused. Wait. Salsa. Sour Cream. Guacamole for the cost of a small house. But, no ketchup.

The more I thought about it the more I realized that people didn’t really use ketchup quite as much as I did. Save the toddler who loved ketchup on everything from his burger to his matchbox cars, I was the only one drowning everything in the said condiment.

I don’t quite get my love of ketchup, but just like any good therapist will tell you, most of our unexplained behavior stem from childhood. And its true – my childhood foodings of the American variety did involve vast quantities of ketchup. And despite shedding so many other aspects of my childhood from sippy cups to riding bicycles with training wheels, somehow the ketchup habit? It stuck.

For better or worse I guess its now just a part of who I am. I’ll call it a quirk- and hope people find it endearing.

Aisha’s blog is www.aishaiqbal.blogspot.com
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Like, What Is It With Kids And Ketchup
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One thought on “Like, What Is It With Kids And Ketchup

  • 30/10/2010 at 9:16 am
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    What a lovely post this is Aisha! I am an American who doesn't like ketchup. Really! I like tomatoes and all types of Red gravies or sauces, But I do not like ketchup. In fact, I do not like any type of condiments. Well,with the exception of butter or margarine. I eat my burgers plain and my hot dogs without mustard. Yuk! So I guess that makes me quirky. I do however, love pickles and peppers hot, sweet, or mild.- You're not alone. My son puts ketchup on everything, even pizza!
    I think that food appeals to the senses in the same way that music does. It can take you back to specific memories. I can still smell my grandmothers rump roast cooking. There was just something special about walking into her house on a brisk fall evening and the scent of that roast in the oven.

    All the Best,
    Kathleen

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