Don’t look away in disgust. A ketchup sandwich is not the snack of the desperate; it’s a tasty treat that celebrates America’s most beloved condiment.
Americans love ketchup. We dip our fries into it with abandon, slather it onto burgers, drizzle it onto our hot dogs (unless you’re from Chicago, of course—don’t get angry, you mustard-loving Midwesterners!). And yet, when I spread it onto a hot dog bun and press it into a sandwich, people look at me like I’m a monster.
It started as a childhood snack. I knew I liked ketchup. I knew I liked bread. So why not cut out the middlemen (burger patties, cheese, etc.) and simply enjoy the two together? A snack was born—cue Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. While other kids came home to apple slices and PB&Js, I was enjoying a sweet, umami-filled, cloudlike ketchup sandwich. Those suckers.
Here’s the basic recipe, if you can even call it that:
Take two pieces of white bread (we’re talking zero nutritional value—the kind of bread you can mush into a tiny gluten ball) or a hot dog bun.
Squirt a two-second squeeze of ketchup onto one slice of bread or one side of the bun. Spread it with a knife so that you cover the entire surface, crust to crust.
Sandwich together, press lightly to adhere, eat.
It’s so gosh darn simple, but the flavors are…okay, they’re not complex. They’re ketchup. But ketchup is great.
In my tween and teen years, I set aside Elfquest books, The Phantom of the Opera soundtrack, oversized T-shirts featuring wolves, and even my beloved ketchup sandwiches. I was attempting to be cool (or at least fly under the radar), which I like to think I accomplished with the help of the Delia’s catalog. So let’s just skip right over those extremely personality-free years and meet back in college, where I found my favorite condiment sandwich again.
It was an easy bite to grab when I didn’t want to wait in line for a kerosene-soaked hot dog at a fraternity cookout. At this point, I also started experimenting with other toppings. I added some mustard for tang or relish for zip. But the real revelation was the addition of plain potato chips. The salty crunch was just what the sandwich needed to give it a grown-up twist. I guess it makes sense. Chips are just a few millimeters of potato away from fries, which are BFFs with ketchup. So why shouldn’t chips and ketchup canoodle in a sandwich together?
It took my friends a second to catch on, but soon they were scrounging and ketchup-sandwiching right by my side. Why? Because it was and continues to be a good sandwich. Okay, alcohol was maybe involved, as well. And those friends might not admit to eating ketchup sandwiches now. But that changes nothing.
There are two things early childhood and collegedom have in common: no shame and free condiments. At both those junctures, I was able to indulge in my ketchup sandwiches without fear of judgment or monetary cost. But now, as a “respectable” “adult,” chowing down on one at a friend’s BBQ results in raised eyebrows and scrunched noses. But I don’t care. I’m done hiding. I’m going to blast “Master of the House,” slap on a wolf shirt, and stuff my face with ketchup sandwiches. Because ketchup slathered on a soft, pillowy hot dog bun is good, damnit. We should all be noshing on ketchup sandwiches with impunity. I mean, as long as they’re made with Heinz, of course. Were you going to use Hunt’s? What are you, a monster?