Large scale disasters, like freak weather events, blogger retirements and national elections, devastate us in groups. But the small afflictions we bear alone. If we are civilized, we suffer them quietly, fearing to bore our dear ones or inspire them to think us petty. Big, bold disasters either kill or strengthen us. But the small hurts, toothpick jabs to the soul, are the ones that age and enfeeble. So it is with ketchup.
Receiving the ketchup bottle after the fries have cooled is a disappointment that must be carried off with a sigh. I rarely handle it that gracefully, but nevertheless take comfort in knowing that I at least recognize how I should behave. Further, I’ve whined about late ketchup before (I’m not obsessed, I’m bruised, OK?), so I mention it now only as a benchmark of regret. Because a new affront is afoot.
At what point of refinement does a restaurant’s décor demand that bottles of condiments be hid from view? It’s a thing one can’t quantify. One just knows instinctively, particularly if one’s been raised by my mom. You walk into a place and sense, we will not find a Heinz squeezy in this place.
In these places they serve the Red Condiment — always with the unspoken condescension “Well! If you must use kat-sup,” like it’s a moral weakness — in a miniature ramekin.
Surely you’ve seen it. The little white ramekin? It’s the same diminuative size wherever you go, as if there’s but one producer: some unmarked, concrete-block factory in the Qinghai province that churns them out and ships them overseas by the bargeload.
And the things are contemptuously tiny. It’s veritable rationing! Is there a real war on? “Ladies, turn in your pantyhose! We need the nylon for our paratroopers!”
The one-size-fits-all attitude of the ketchup ramekin strikes a blow to our dignity. The condenscending message, “Surely this will be enough for you,” is etched along the curve of the server’s sneer as he sets it on the table and quickly backs away as from a leper or a roach. And worse, to my utter humiliation, it often is enough – as if the Qinghai has me figured out right down to the mili-ounce.
True, the injury inflicted is as insignificant as the ramekin itself, but that’s the point, I guess. Picnics are more frequently spoiled by the ant than the Autan.
Photo by David Grant, courtesy Stock Xchng