What We Do With Obstinate Ketchup

Some people think it’s an abomination to put ketchup on meatloaf. We don’t. We draw the line at putting it on quiche, or mac and cheese, mind you, but meatloaf is fair game. Last night Mom made meatloaf and had invited me and Samuel to come. I have discussed Mom’s amazing meatloaf in another post and there was nothing disappointing about last night’s. In fact, as Mom’s meatloaf goes, this one was exceptional. But it was the ketchup that caught my attention.

Mom has this squeezable container that she keeps it in.

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It’s one of those that people got and used when ketchup still came in a glass bottle (and that was the only way you could buy it). If you had one of these red plastic squeezie things and made a habit of filling it and keeping it filled, you put it out on the table instead of the glass bottle because ketchup is obstinate about coming out of glass bottles. It was too often a maddening experience. You might remember: Either you banged madly on the bottom of the bottle with the flat of your hand and nothing came out, or you banged on the bottom madly and a gigantic blob came out. Only occasionally would the banging result in the right amount of ketchup. We must have the right amount of ketchup, c’mon.

In my family we have been putting ketchup on meatloaf for as long as I can remember. Last night, no surprise, there was that container on the table along with the wine glasses and cloth napkins. Samuel picked it up to decorate his slice(s) of meatloaf and remarked, “This is the best ketchup container.”

“Yes, I’ve had that one a long time,” Mom said.

“Oh, I remember,” Samuel said. “It’s the one I remember from when we came to your house when I was a kid.”

A quick glance at ketchup container images on google revealed a few interesting designs, but most are boring – straight-sided, cylindrical, vaguely transparent bottles with red screw-on lids that have a point. Probably there are not many super cool ones because it is assumed that hardly anyone needs them – ketchup now comes in squeezable containers, not glass bottles. I have one of the boring ones. I use it because I buy ketchup in large containers that yes, are squeezable, but I can barely get my hand around them, let alone get my hand around, turn it upside down and squeeze.

This is a mug shot of mine. I have no idea why I have one with a yellow top, which seems like it goes with mustard. I never thought about it. Mom’s is way cooler.

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It is also possible that some people prefer transferring from the manufacturer’s squeeze bottle to a squeeze bottle of their own, that they are willing to go through the trouble, that they prefer putting an unadorned squeeze bottle at their table rather than one with the word Ketchup in a bold font across the front right under the company name along with supplemental text, a bar code, a list of ingredients and other information manufacturers deem necessary to print on the label because they agree with Miss Manners that packaging at the table is unthinkable.

In her Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, in a section headed “Reading at Table,” we see the following:

DEAR MISS MANNERS:
Would you please comment on the proper etiquette for reading at the dinner table? In particular, is it considered proper to prop a letter against the salt shaker or to lean the newspaper against a carton of cottage cheese, in order to free the hands for eating?
GENTLE READER:
Miss Manners was about to duck this question, on the grounds that it is never proper to eat at the dinner table if anyone else is present and that what you do when you eat alone is between you and your God, and not a matter of etiquette. Then she came to the cottage cheese container. No decent person would put a food package – including ketchup bottles, milk cartons or cereal boxes – on the table, even at home alone with the shades drawn.

Laughable, right? I did laugh out loud, though not so much at the concept but at the language. Miss Manners’ very words have their nose in the air 😊.

But think about it, maybe she is not so far off. Most nicer restaurants stick with only dishes, utensils, glasses and actual food on the table. One of our dinner standards when I worked at the hotel was: All condiments are presented in small ramekins or dishes with appropriate service piece; no portion packets are used except sweeteners. In other words, nothing in a package (including mini ketchup bottles) except the white sugar packets and pink, blue and yellow artificial sweetener packets was acceptable. This standard gets tricky when it comes to jam, honey and Tabasco sauce, trust me.

I think it is entirely up to you what you have/allow/tolerate on your table at home and I suspect you will not be judged for this. Fear not. However I do think Mom’s ketchup container would pass Miss Manners’ muster. Better still, Samuel remembered it from his childhood, and I remember it from mine. The same container all these years – there’s something to be said for that. It makes me wonder which of the things in my kitchen, on my table, in my house will be remembered. What do you hope will be remembered from yours?

Randos and Meatloaf

If you typed the sentence below into a blank page in Word document on your laptop, one word would come up with a red line under it, telling you to check your spelling because it’s unknown to the internal Word dictionary. If you tried to play that same word in Wordfeud or any of the online scrabble-type games, it would reject that word as “not a word.” Here’s the sentence:

Last night my son Samuel came home from a tech meetup and told me there had been some randos there.

Did you guess which word I mean?

“Some randos?” I said to him. From the context I guessed: “You mean random people?” He smiled. “Randos?” I repeated.

“Yeah,” he said, still smiling. Clearly I am so out of it that my ignorance is amusing. “Random people who show up who don’t necessarily belong.” To prove his point, he said, “I’ll show you in the slang dictionary.” He put rando in a google search. “Oh!” he said, “not the slang dictionary. Merriam-Webster!”

Indeed, rando is a word, randos being the plural. From the Merriam-Webster page https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rando:

Screenshot (39) rando.png

Who knew? Obviously I didn’t. According to M-W, “The first known use of rando was in 2003.” Ah, a millennial word. To further his amusement and my education, he then pulled up a song on youtube that humorously includes much of the millennial lingo. To further yours, I humbly suggest checking out Millennial Love https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUendT_dGks&start_radio=1&list=RDMUendT_dGks

New words enter the lexicon all the time. Notice “meetup” in the original sentence about randos. Why can’t young people say they are going to a meeting? Because when young people want to gather in a group, they don’t meet. They don’t meet together. They meet up. The verb in “Let’s meet up” turned into the noun in “I’ll see you at the meetup.” I myself would be tempted to add a hyphen for the noun, as in “I’ll see you at the meet-up.” But no. Why would a millennial bother with hyphens?

Now that I am clear and settled on this new word (which somehow I missed for the last 15 years) I can reflect on the endless supply of almost everything in this world. Recipes, for instance. Just last night I was making meatloaf. I put the ingredients in a bowl. In this case, ground beef, bread softened in milk, eggs, minced red onion, parmesan cheese, fresh chopped parsley, salt and pepper.

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I mixed it all together and found that it was a little too wet. I added a handful of (dry) old-fashioned oats. It was still too wet so I added another handful. This made it just right. A long time ago I had a recipe book that used oats to “stretch” the meat the way my mom had always used leftover bread. I always thought oats were a good idea, as in more “pure” (one ingredient instead of everything that’s in the bread), more natural, more fiber. But while going through my pantry yesterday I had found some dried old bread and thought to use it up with the ground meat I had thawed the day before. But when I had added milk to soften it, I’d added too much, thus the need for more stretch ingredients, i.e. the oats.

I shaped two thin loaves (so it would bake faster, I was hungry) and baked it in a very hot oven (450, I was hungry) which also gave it some crispiness. The meatloaf came out great, even if meatloaf never really looks that great.

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I thought about sharing my meatloaf recipe and was constructing the ingredient list and preparation steps in my mind when I realized that, well, normally I don’t put minced red onion in. I just happened to have one already peeled in my fridge and it stared at me when I went in for the eggs.

Also I would normally use oats, not bread, for reasons above. But I used the bread yesterday because there it was. A lot of people, including my mom whose meatloaf is fabulous every time, use bread and that’s okay. She squeezes hers to get the excess moisture out, and I think uses water instead of milk to soak it in.

If you don’t have fresh parsley, dried will serve.

How many eggs? Two or three per pound of meat? That depends on 1. how moist you like your meatloaf and 2. how big your eggs are. Mine from the silkies and d’uccle are very small, so I would have used three if I had not poured too much milk on the bread.

I like to use the “meatloaf mix” you can get in the meat case at the store, where they grind up beef, veal and pork together and package it specifically for meatloaf, but that’s not what I had taken out of my freezer, so yesterday’s was just beef.

My sister Lynn makes a stiffer mixture, flattens it out, puts stuff inside (I can’t remember: salami? cheese? cut up veggies?) and rolls it up before baking the loaf. This is always delicious.

Some people bake their meatloaf in a loaf pan. I prefer a freeform elongated football. A very skinny football if I’m very hungry.

My point is: There are endless ways to make meatloaf just as there are endless new words and new expressions in our lexicon.

Go to the greeting card section of any store that sells them. There are endless ways to say Happy Birthday or I’m so sorry for your loss.

Decide to build a porch on your house. There are endless ways to design it (not all of them sensible, feasible or economical, I grant).

Watch the political campaigns happening around you. There are endless ways to say Here’s why you want to vote for me.

Check out Blue Planet II on amazon. There are endless kinds of sea creatures with endlessly different shapes, colors, habits, habitats, diets, methods of survival, ways of caring for their young, levels of ugliness or cuteness. There’s fire spouting from mountains under the sea. Sperm whales rest vertically!

It would be easy to be overwhelmed by the endless newness and the endless variety, and maybe sometimes we are. But mostly I hope we marvel at the richness of the world and count our blessings that there is always something new to learn. We are never done learning. We never should be.

Who knows? The next meatloaf might be even better than this one was!