It was hidden – almost whispered in the media last week. In the midst of national racial unrest, and potential problems with the Covid vaccines up against a new strain of the disease, and some real struggles in the government on how and what direction our country should go – the story just quietly arose, and sat there waiting for it to develop. The potential disaster waiting to be unleashed, and possibly already opened up – well, it was possibly devastating, and a development that we would all have a difficult time moving through.
Of course, I’m talking about the Great Ketchup Shortage of 2021. When the word first went on the streets, just like toilet paper and chicken thighs, there was an immediate consumer reaction, and bottle after bottle were loaded in grocery carts --- just in case. The only good news in this possible famine was that it wasn’t happening in October, around Halloween, since thousands of gallons of the stuff is used to create the horror scenes in neighborhoods.
I have to say that when we went shopping at the end of last week, I put a bottle in my cart – not a ton of them, and not even the largest one that you need two fists to squirt the red stuff out, but large enough mind you. Large enough.
I expected there would be a congressional investigation mounted. Never mind the fact that gas prices in our city at least have gone up 30 % in a matter of a few weeks – we are talking ketchup here, or catsup – but there’s no difference between the two. Actually, the word comes out of an original Chinese pickled fish sauce – closer to soy sauce or Worcestershire and was known as kei-tsiap. An even more interesting fact was that, as ketchup sales were tough to get going in the states, it was reformulated for a time and sold as medicine. It was “Dr. Miles Compound Extract of Tomato.” Supposedly a cure-all for everything from balding to athlete’s foot. Now granted, tomatoes do have a pretty good level of lycopene, but you would have to eat gallons of ketchup per day for that benefit, and in the end, the amount sugar or fructose syrup in the ketchup would have some unhealthy effects.
Still, the idea that on top of all we have gone through, we then would lose the convenience of grabbing a bottle and squirting a nice round blob on our plate or our burger – or eggs, for some folks, although that seems a bit strange – well, it sure sounded like a catastrophe in the making!
Fortunately, what was reported was premature, and the Big Ketchup industry reported after a day or two, and put America’s mind and taste buds at ease. Different companies announced that they were doubling production of the ketchup and were pledging to produce over 12 billion little ketchup packets per year. No matter how you count it, that’s a lot of little packets to put behind people’s tires so when they back out, it explodes and looks like a crime scene. Teenage boy stuff. I’m sure the ketchup commodities board breathed a sigh of relief.
What was even more fascinating, however, was why there was a presumed shortage in the first place. Well, like everything else, we can blame it on the pandemic. You see, with the change in how people were eating out, there were two major forces. First, even if you could get in a restaurant, the old-fashioned (now) way of having a ketchup bottle sit on each table became a real no-no for the presumed spread of the disease. Instead, restaurants would bring the little packets of red goodness to tables if someone needed some ketchup. Also, since the server couldn’t know just how much ketchup a customer would use, they began bringing out – not just one or two packets, but perhaps 6 or 8, or even more.
It was the same with the fast food places. If you were to ask the good folks at Burger King for some extra ketchup, the folks working behind the counter would use their hands like the claw machine at the arcade, and scoop out a huge number of ketchups and dump it beside your burger in the bag. Of course, after you use one, or maybe two packets, unfortunately the rest stay in the bag and get dumped at the trash around the corner.
That also happened as folks greatly increased their ordering in from restaurants for delivery. There were times it seemed we might have to use a dolly to wheel the bags of delivered food, weighed down by ketchup packets – even if we never asked for any. If you regularly ordered food in, if you weren’t careful, you would have counters covered with red and white plastic easy open containers.
And no one has even truly spoken about that many little pieces of plastic going into landfills, or worse, landing up on the edge of parking lots. In America, we do nothing if not move to excess very often.
So the answer of course, was not to cut back on ketchup use, but instead to unleash the mighty muscles of ketchup industry – and just make those 12 billion packets to spread cheer far and wide across the world.
Therefore, don’t fear. The ketchup bosses will make sure enough is made, even if they have to pick those tomatoes green. Of course, I still waiting to hear as to whether mustard is also on the endangered species list. That stinking CoVid…
Word for the day: clue. Pronounced just as it looks – “clew” – it’s actually a Middle English word, but it finds itself in an old Greek myth. The word, “clew,” means “ball of thread or string.” So the story goes that King Minos of Crete had a terrible monster known as the Minotaur, kept in the labyrinth at the fortress of Knossos. Minos forced the Athenians to send seven youth to the labyrinth each year to be killed and eaten by the Minotaur. (Greek myths are that way) Anyway, Theseus volunteers to go and to try to kill the beast. He takes a ball of thread and unrolls it as he moves through the maze until he finds the Minotaur, and indeed kills it. He then uses the thread – the clew – to find his way out of the maze once again, and head back to Greece. Today, in order for us to not get lost in a maze of different sorts, we use all sorts of clues/clews to find our way through.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.