The Tasteless Criticism of Ketchup and Eggs

Ketchup and eggs make a ton of sense together; the sweetly acidic, savory nature of ketchup cuts through the decadent creaminess of eggs. “Ketchup is sweet and sour and has umami,” says Laura Hoang, chef de cuisine at Pearl River Deli in Los Angeles. “[Ketchup and eggs] hit that salt, fat, acid, heat checklist.” “I love ketchup and eggs!” says Courtney Storer, another accomplished chef and a culinary producer for The Bear on FX. Across the board, I’ve talked to many different culinary professionals who feel the same way: Ketchup and eggs rule. So why is pairing them considered tasteless? In short, classism. 

Ketchup is cheap (sometimes even free), sweet, and processed—three qualities food elites have deemed unsophisticated. Check out this Philly Voice article calling it “uncivilized” like some sort of diamond trading villain who has a cane made out of bones. Then there’s this brilliant piece of journalism from Thrillist, simply titled “Ketchup Is a Garbage Condiment and You’re a Moron for Using It.” Ketchup got more bad press when the world found out Donald Trump (The Little Rascals, President of The United States) puts it on well-done steaks. Attacking the Right for their supposed lack of gastronomic prowess is a blind-as-shit take that truly made me want to not vote entirely. Even Anthony Bourdain, may the man rest in peace, perpetuated the anti-ketchup and eggs propaganda. But, as much as I love the guy, a lot of his food opinions don’t exactly hold up (mainly, ugh, vegans are fine and Guy Fieri rules).

Now, think about ketchup in the context of eggs. Ah, the egg—the pure, simple decadence of a well-cooked egg. It’s an emblem of richness, piety, and simple sophistication. It’s championed by the best French chefs and adored by food enthusiasts for its lavishness. From chef Thomas Keller, of the French Laundry, in his Masterclass:

I cannot stress this enough. Always treat your eggs gently. After a run in with the sad, rubbery scrambled eggs of breakfast and brunch buffets, that gentle touch is enough to make you believe in the power of the humble egg once more.

To sully a refined egg with boorish, barbaric ketchup is to let the riffraff in. Moreover, squirting ketchup from a bottle and hearing that farty sound is a reminder that we have buttholes, and if there’s one thing sophisticated people don’t want to acknowledge, it’s their buttholes.

People also think of ketchup as infantile—something kids eat and adults grow out of consuming in polite company. To continue eating ketchup into adulthood signals that we have not grown, have not achieved, and thus eating it is a mark of a childish, unaccomplished, unrefined existence.

Ketchup is the condiment of choice for hot dogs, bologna, and chicken nuggets—foods often delivered microwave to mouth. These foods are talked about lovingly as “childhood classics,” but I would argue they are only childhood classics for a certain economic demographic. These aren’t just kids’ foods; quite often they’re foods low-income families rely on. 

Oh, but many have tried to elevate ketchup, to drag it into the hills of affluence. They’ve attempted, unsuccessfully, to mold ketchup to their will. Take ketchup leather, which injects some very much not-needed molecular gastronomy into an already perfect condiment. Then there’s varieties of homemade ketchup, beet ketchup, and gooseberry ketchup—all hallmarks of gastro pubs owned by gastro-chuds who charge $17 for a burger. Moreover, ketchup that’s chef-driven (vroom vroom) seems to always fail. It just doesn’t compare to the cloyingly sweet, tomato-y, processed triumph of Heinz or the brightly acidic bite of Hunt’s. To make one’s own ketchup is a fool’s errand, and yet one that is required by restaurants to appease the wants of their sophisticated clientele. Heinz ketchup on an A5 Japanese Wagyu burger topped with a fried egg? Desecration. Here, use this shard of perfectly polished square ketchup paper instead.

All this to say, I’m not a ketchup guy. The only reason I have ketchup at home is because I literally have a job eating ice cream and Doritos. I don’t put ketchup on eggs.

I personally gravitate towards a breakfast sandwich that doubles down on full, fatty richness with a layer of mayonnaise. At home, I often mix a little bit of dijon into soft scrambled eggs for a smooth, tangy heat, or soy sauce for a salty umami bomb. And, after a hard night of drinking, it is essential to douse an open faced egg sandwich with Cholula or Tapatio. Shoot, I’ve eaten marinara sauce on eggs and I’d do it again. But never, never do I put ketchup on eggs. I think it’s because I’m afraid to be shamed—that people will question my taste, my opinions as a food writer. 

It’s too bad, because the taste of ketchup and eggs make sense. All over the world people top eggs with ketchup-esque condiments. Gochujang, Chinese black vinegar, and eel sauce are all viable egg toppings. Filipino banana ketchup is often enjoyed on silog (fried rice, fried eggs, and Spam). My favorite omelet of all time is in Thai Town in Los Angeles, at a place called Ruen Pair. It’s a salty and sweet egg crepe simply called salty turnip and egg. Whether it’s made from salted turnips or just a concoction of caramelized turnips and soy sauce, I’m not sure, but I know it possesses a magnificent sweet and savory quality that has made it one of the most beloved dishes in Los Angeles. It’s not ketchup, but the intensely sweet + umami combo is similar to the effect of Heinz.

It’s not about whether or not the flavors of ketchup and eggs work. It’s proven that they do. This is about a poor product tainting a rich one. 

To put my own prejudices to the test, I recently ate some fried eggs with a few melted Kraft Singles and a generous, fart-filled squirt of Heinz ketchup. The cheese and ketchup together soothed my nostrils with a comforting aroma. The sweet, savory ketchup melded perfectly with the rich eggs and processed cheese. It was, dare I say, actually quite rich. 

Edit: It’s an hour later and my stomach hurts. I am also laying down in bed, moments away from a nap.


About the Author

Danny Palumbo

Danny is a comedian, cook, and food writer living in Los Angeles. He loves gas station eggs, canned sardines, and Easter candy. He also passionately believes that all the best chips come from Pennsylvania (Herr's!). If you can't understand Danny when he talks, it's because he's from Pittsburgh.

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  • Good article Danny. You should get more money and invent your own new ketchup to quiet the haters.

    Reply
  • There is almost no circumstance where chili sauce is not superior to ketchup. Max Miller has an excellent video about the history of ketchup.

    Reply
  • Scrambled eggs with cheddar and ketchup is a dream. In fact, I hate it without it. Crispy grilled cheese dipped in ketchup is also a must for me. The only place ketchup doesn’t belong is hot dogs. That is yellow mustard only.

    Reply
  • “if there’s one thing sophisticated people don’t want to acknowledge, it’s their buttholes.”

    Truer words have never been spoken. It is, after all the Great Social Equalizer: No matter how rich, famous, and/or good-looking you are, your butthole stinks just as bad as everyone else’s.

    Reply