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ANN BAILEY: My favorite 'ups': ketchup and syrup

My personality tends be on the serious side and I sometimes have to work at keeping a positive attitude. However, when it comes to two of my favorite condiments, syrup and ketchup, being upbeat is no problem.

Ann Bailey
Ann Bailey

My personality tends be on the serious side and I sometimes have to work at keeping a positive attitude. However, when it comes to two of my favorite condiments, syrup and ketchup, being upbeat is no problem.

My fondness for two "ups" began as a child and I've maintained them as an adult, although I don't use them to the excess that I did back then.

When I was a kid there were very few things that didn't taste better smothered in ketchup. Whether it was scrambled eggs, corn on the cob or meat, it got dipped in ketchup before it reached my lips. My dad was horrified that I even put it on tender, juicy steak. I loved eating bologna sandwiches with ketchup and one of my specialties was a roast beef sandwich and ketchup with a side of dill pickles. Sometimes, much to my brother's disgust, I made sandwiches that consisted only of ketchup.

Once, on a dare, I even put it on a piece of chocolate cake. As I recall, the tang of the ketchup kind of cut the sweetness of the cake and it wasn't all that bad. I've seen recipes for mole sauce that combines chocolate, tomatoes and chili peppers, so I probably wasn't really all that off the mark with my chocolate cake and ketchup combo.

Another delicacy that my grandma introduced me to was eating ketchup with cottage cheese. I really didn't like cottage cheese that much, but it was a good excuse to use a generous helping of ketchup. I still sometimes eat cottage cheese with ketchup, but I go heavier on the cottage cheese these days. My grandma, however, lost her appetite for the combination when she learned that President Richard Nixon put ketchup on his cottage cheese. A lifelong Democrat, she didn't like sharing anything in common with a Republican president.


A good cover

Besides enhancing flavors, ketchup also was good for masking them, which was another upside to one of my favorite condiments. Even liver could be edible when I poured on enough ketchup. I also found ketchup to be helpful in the school cafeteria. It made some of my least favorite lunches, such as hamburger gravy over mashed potatoes palatable. It also made the government-issued hot dogs more edible.

More than once ketchup has been the cause of embarrassment. It's amazing how one dab of ketchup on a white shirt can spread over what seems like the entire front. And I still haven't lived down the hot dog incident that occurred several years ago at a basketball game.

I had just bought a hot dog and covered it with ketchup, mustard and relish when the National Anthem began. I set my hot dog on the bleacher and stood at attention until the song was done, then sat down.

On the hot dog.

I not only smashed the 'dog to smithereens, I ground ketchup, mustard and relish firmly into the backside of my pants. I was fortunate to have a sweatshirt on which I tied around my waist to cover the mess. Otherwise I would have had to sit the entire game.

Over the years, my fondness for ketchup became the stuff of legends in our family and among family friends. The men who worked for my dad on our farm were personal witness to my ketchup craving because they ate dinner with us during the summer. One of them gave me a large bottle of ketchup for my 18th birthday. That's still one of my favorite gifts to date.

Sweetening the pot


It's probably not surprising, given my love of ketchup, that I also enjoyed a little (or sometimes, a lot) of the other "up" with several kinds of foods. Like many people, I like to put syrup on pancakes, waffles and French toast. Most often, I dip them in maple syrup, but I also like the taste of berries, including blueberry and chokecherry syrups. A co-worker recently gave me a jar of syrup that he and his dad made from chokecherries they picked on the farm. I think it's even tastier because I know the work that went into it and because it's made by friends. I also know there's a tasty difference between the maple-flavored syrup sold in grocery stores and the kind that maple syrup farmers produce.

While eating pancakes and the like with syrup isn't unusual, I've learned that people see some of my other uses for syrup strange. For example, I grew up in a family that ate syrup on corn bread. My mom often made the corn bread for breakfast, so it seemed natural to put syrup on it. Now when I eat corn bread with other meals, such as when we have chili, I still eat it with syrup. My kids have adapted my syrup habit and also put a generous amount on their cornbread, no matter what time of day it is.

Some people in our extended family, who didn't grow up with our cornbread-syrup tradition, find it unusual and a little revolting. I'm sure they'd feel the same way if they found out that I also like to put syrup over eggs and toast. One of my favorite breakfast treats is to toast a slice of bread, butter it, put a fried egg on top and pour syrup over the whole thing. Then I slice it into small pieces and enjoy. If there's also sausage on the table, I pour a little pool of that on my plate and dip it in the syrup.

Although, I still enjoy my condiments with a variety of foods, these days, I do draw the line at putting ketchup on steak and have graduated to putting salsa on my scrambled eggs, instead of ketchup.

I'm also much more careful about where I set the hot dogs I buy at sporting events. Red, green and yellow are good colors for me, but I'd prefer to be more upfront when I wear them.

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