Ketchup Is A Pickle

The Awl’s holiday series on flavors and spices.

Image: Mike Mozart via Flickr

I need to tell you something, which is that ketchup is, unfortunately for you, a pickle.

Not a moral pickle, but a culinary pickle.

Is relish a pickle? Yes—since pickles can be whole or sliced cucumbers, the physical integrity of the vegetable is immaterial to the pickle status of the vegetable in question. Therefore relish is also a pickle.

I know this is a sad day for people who obsess over artisanal pickles and order the pickle plate at every bougie restaurant in Williamsburg. These pickles may have notes of coriander or nutmeg, or exotic vinegars. Fancy pickles are nice. They’re not that hard to make, but I appreciate the effort and the attention paid to elevate what was previously a sad, limp sidekick to a sandwich. A good pickle cuts through fatty, creamy, decadent dishes, and a good fatty, creamy, decadent dish accentuates the freshness and crispness of a good pickle. Pickles are great. This is not an attack on pickles.

People who love these pickle platters, strangely, tend to also hate ketchup. Why do they hate ketchup? Have you HAD ketchup, is usually what they will say in response. A true foodie does not ketchup his fries, nor his burger. He would never besmirch a good mac and cheese or grilled cheese sandwich with ketchup. But if they were served with a pickle, he would absolutely, at some point, put down his fork or sandwich and augment his dining experience with a bracing bite of pickle. That would make him a hypocrite.  

I regret to inform you that the pickles you love and the ketchup you hate are, actually, one and the same.

Pickles are, broadly, a vegetable in a slurry of salt, sugar, vinegar, water, and seasonings.

Ketchup is also a vegetable in a slurry of salt, sugar, vinegar, water, and seasonings.

Aha, you might say, but isn’t anything that includes a slurry of salt, sugar, vinegar, water, and seasons just a DRESSING of some kind?

No—dressing does not have vegetables in it.

When there’s a vegetable, it’s a pickle.

If you think pickles are good, you must also extend that same opinion and courtesy to ketchup.

If you like pickles but hate ketchup, you don’t make any goddamn sense at all.

Then is green goddess dressing also a pickle?


Good day.