We love telling the stories of the stuff we ate as kids, how once we were picky and now we are grown. I only ate white foods. I ate PB&Js for a year, how cute. I subsisted only on oreos and bologna sandwiches until I entered puberty and that’s why I’m a marxist. Etc, etc.
It’s fun to look back on all the allowances our parents made for us, and the ways we ate and still survived without worry for salads or grams of protein or the proper crispy skin on a piece of fish. A man eating twinkles for a month is news, but a child eating turkey sandwiches for a year is canon.
For me it was hot dogs and yogurt, those were my main food groups for a few months or maybe a year—depending on how dramatic we feel when we’re telling the story, my parents and I. There’s a photo of me naked in a high chair, smeared in yogurt, limbs in the air, mania and dairy covering my face.
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My tastes developed a bit more and then Dad began making me hot dog omelettes in the morning. Very adult. I’d sit across the kitchen island as he sliced the dogs, crisped them, took them out, put in eggs, then omeletted it all together. On the side there was always ketchup, and when I was done I’d always leave a red-smeared plate for someone else to clean up.
Ketchup and eggs together is good and right.
Ten years later I went to boarding school and ate eggs every morning, scrambled with cheese, plus a big squirt of ketchup. The eggs were never very good: They came from a box or a bottle, I think, and got cooked on a flat top, with little concern about the line between properly cooked and rubbery. The ketchup was a sort of safety, a cover-up for squeaky eggs intermingled with congealing cheese, acid and sweetness covering all flaws. This is not a time for fancy, or gourmet, or homemade ketchup. This is the appropriate use for a squeeze bottle and the little blorping noise it makes when dispensing its red gloop.
Eggs are not difficult but they are tricky. If they are a part of your life, you will mess them up every once in a while and it’s important to have safeguards, like it is to have water wings or bowling lane bumpers. Sometimes you want to revert to your less-gourmet days and sometimes you want the little protections that were afforded you back then. Ketchup and eggs is good and right. Sometimes you want something to swipe a big chunk of scrambled eggs through. Sometimes you want to leave a plate in the sink that’s smeared in red and then turn on the water and let the ketchup wash off slowly, wisps of chemically stabilized sauce swishing around like seaweed before the drain sucks them away.
On our new weekly podcast, two friends separated by the Atlantic take questions and compare notes on everything from charcuterie trends to scone etiquette.