Did you hear about the Ketchup Shortage?

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“Excuse me, waiter…”


“I’ve got a lot of French fries here. I wonder if you could bring me a little extra ketchup?”


It was one of those moments you don’t see coming and when it does come you don’t quite believe it’s there. No? I’m sure that none of us, in our collective century or two of living in this culture has ever heard that question responded to with that answer. We had dropped 30 bucks on a bar tab, and were having five full blown entree’s at the table, more drinks, who knows … there could be dessert, and compered to the 50 or 60 satin-clad prom goers who filled up a goodly number of seats in Saint Cloud’s Granite City restaurant, we were likely to leave palpable tips.

But poor Greg was not going to get an extra ounce of ketchup.

“Sorry sir,” the boy who was our waiter continued. “Our manager is a bit of a stickler. You know, we throw away about 80 dollars worth of uneaten ketchup a night …”

Greg learns of the ketchup shortage.

‘Hold on a second,’ we all thought to ourselves (this was a table full of professional skeptics having just come from a meeting of skeptics planning to spread skepticism across the world, so we were in gear to say the least … I mean seriously, there was a freakin’ Skepchick among us… ) A good price for Ketchup is about three bucks for a 24 ounce bottle, wholesale, or 15 cents an ounce. This is a large restaurant, so say they 110 seats and cycle through five people at dinner time max, that’s 550 plates. If half the orders have french fries, that’s 225 little stainless steel cups of ketchup, with an ounce in each one. That comes out to 34 bucks worth of ketchup. Everybody would have to ask for three or four servings of ketchup and then not use two of them for this to be true.

We were skeptical.

It did occur to us that we were on that TV show, “What Would You Do?” or maybe “Candid Camera.” We wondered what Greg was going to do with the ketchup he had. those of us who did not have any ketchup, even though we didn’t need it, started eyeing his little stainless steel cup. We wondered if we had missed something on the news …. word of the Ketchup Crisis … because we were very busy with other things.

A while later the boy-waiter came back. He sheepishly held out a little stainless steel cup of ketchup. “I want to say I’m sorry, I should not have told you that you could not have any more ketchup. Here’s some more ketchup.” And he put the little stainless steel cup down in the middle of the table where we all eyed it enviously, a sort of Stockholm Syndrome settling in, but instead of Stockholm it was some place where there wasn’t much Ketchup. The waiter turned and left.

By this time Greg had eaten almost all of his French fries, and he had conserved the ketchup he had, hoarded it almost, so that the amount of ketchup and the amount of French fries would end at almost exactly the same time. But now he had this extra little cup of ketchup that was way more than he needed, what with only a few more scraps of waffle-cut French fries, and he wasn’t that hungry after all.

So a while later the waiter came by to offer dessert, and when we said no (worried that there might be a prohibition on chocolate sauce or something) he brought the checks, and we settled up our accounts while the little stainless steel cup of ketchup sat there in the middle of the table.

Mocking. Mocking us.

And we all looked at Greg and wondered if he could have done a better job at timing this thing with the French fries, but no one said anything about it out loud.

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16 thoughts on “Did you hear about the Ketchup Shortage?

  1. I really wanted to say “Pics or it didn’t happen…” But seriously, thank you for bringing this terrible incident to light! I think now that people know, I can begin to pick up the ketchup and move on.

  2. It was exactly as the goodly Mr. Laden described it except for the wailing of the womenfolk and the cries of the children that he didn’t mention. Sad but true.

  3. You folk need to get ahold of Garrison Keillor about this !!!!

    ONE of his regular sponsors on his “A Prairie Home Companion” radio show IS the Ketsup Advisory Board !!!!!

    I’m sure that the Ketsup Advisory Board would be VERY UPSET that ANY Vendor would have the audacity to limit the “natural mellowing agents” of Ketsup – by limiting the amount of Ketsup served !!!!!!!!!

    This Vendor’s actions – goes against EVERYTHING that the Ketsup Advisory Board is supportive of !!!!!!

    PLEASE – let Garrison know about this !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Bob, I know, right????

    The Ketchup Incident occurred near the beginning of dinner, and after dinner we had an hour ride home in the van. I assure you that the Ketchup Board came up at some point during that conversation!

    I think after they dropped me off the other guys might have gone down to Garrison’s house in Saint Paul to tell about this.

  5. Whew! Good thing I don’t like ketchup! I WILL have to take a look to see if there is a tomato shortage, I do love a good tomato… Now, if there were a mustard shortage, we might have to fight!!

  6. If the restaurant truly finds there is a lot ketchup wastage due to it being left in those little cups, why don’t they just put a bottle of it on the table? People will take what they need. I doubt that many people would put so much ketchup on their plate as to waste as much as is allegedly left in the cups. Besides, those of us from more civilized cultures will be asking for vinegar for our fries anyway…something that always garners incredulous looks when I’m south of the border.

  7. Why do they need to decant it into a small, 1-serving container anyway? And why throw away the unused ketchup, instead of just topping up the little bowl for the next customer?

    For crying out loud, just put the whole bottle on the table and have done with it! If you don’t want to give away what brand you’re using, decant into a generic bottle. If you are concerned about pilfering, have a dispenser next to the cutlery and serviettes.

  8. Tomato Catsup on pommes frits? – bleh. Broon sauce, vinegar or mayonnaise if one is drinking Belgian beer.

  9. You mean there are actually places left that don’t serve ketchup (and other condiments) in little plastic sachets?

  10. You shouldn’t be eating ketchup anyway.

    Tomatoes are evil and ketchup is their spawn. In fact, most red colored foods are evil. You can purge the evil from them by mixing them with other ingredients to make the color brown (like spaghetti sauce).

  11. Clearly, this is just evident of Hitlaobama’s secret plan to regulate the American Dream with hidden and false shortages of ketchup. What’s next? Fake Busch rationing?

  12. Well, HELL! That’s the sort of thing that’s bound to happen when them librul restaurateurs go offering French fries on the menu!!

    And what’s the etymology of “restaurant” and “cafe” again, anyway? Don’t those sound suspiciously, y’know, French, too?

  13. Probably the mistake was in asking for “ketchup”. If you’d asked for “catsup” or “ketchep” all would have been fine.

    For all you ketchup haters out there: Get over it! I love the stuff. My wife, for some reason, prefers tartar sauce on her fries.

    @Ken: If your spaghetti sauce is brown, I think you’re doing it wrong. The only thing better than a burger, with ketchup, and fries, with ketchup, is a steaming plate of pasta with nice red marinara sauce. The tomato is FSM’s great gift to mankind.

  14. Bwahaha! Best story and photo ever! It does sound like something out of Prairie Home Companion!

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