Ketchup: the great divide

c: | f: /

When sauce and Canadians collide.

It has been said that England and America are two nations separated by a common language. While this is partly true, they are more accurately separated by their attitude towards ketchup. I attribute this observation to a great work colleague from America (actually, he’s Canadian: I wouldn’t want to unnecessarily tar him with the wrong brush).

Back when I was developing and installing a statistical factory information system using the world’s fastest database (I’ll spare you the details: you won’t have heard of it) the developers from the States visited our site. As was customary after a long morning’s hacking we took them to the staff canteen for lunch; it was affectionately named The Bistro, but no label could cover up its true character.

Pies and mash were lovingly dispensed onto our plates, and when Jeff reached the head of the queue the cashier rung up the total. She asked him if he’d like ketchup, to which he affirmed. She reached beneath the counter, retrieved a little sachet and said “That’ll be 9p”.

I’ll never forget the look he gave her; four parts raised eyebrow to six parts incredulity. There was a silence that could be felt from space and then — delivered with comic timing of which Bill Hicks would be proud — he simply uttered:

You have to… pay… for ketchup?

The cashier nodded, unsure of what to make of the situation and meekly asked “Do you still want it?” Jeff’s retort was swift and to the point: “Hell no!”

That tiny exchange really cuts to the core of our nations’ respective attitudes and I was stifling laughter behind him in the queue; it still makes me grin thinking about it now, some ten years later. See, amid the fearmongering atrocities and propaganda fed daily into our homes via the corporate media, those are the moments that really make the world go round.

God bless you, Jeff: you’re a legend.

1 viewee scribbled here

    Marc Carson

    That’s hilarious. I admit to being shocked at the same thing on a recent trip to Australia.

    We found a fish & chips stand, ordered a couple servings of chips, and were stunned to be asked if we wanted to purchase ketchup. The price was much higher than 9p, probably because we were at a touristy beachy place.

    I was happy to pay, but my wife put her foot down. We were not getting ketchup if it was not free. “WHERE IS OUR SUBSIDIZED KETCHUP,” I’m only too happy to report she did not say.

    We did end up springing for a cup of ketchup or two, but I still get a dry mouth when I think about that meal. That was a HUGE helping of chips! No wonder ketchup wasn’t free.

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