Obsessions: Irish Ketchup, with Plenty of Bite

Turns out that Ireland does ketchup very, very right—with a hefty dose of malt vinegar.

Chef's Ketchup with Cheese Pizza and Potato Chips
Matt Taylor-Gross

I was a ketchup child. You likely knew someone like me: the weirdo in your cafeteria putting ketchup on plain chicken, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, pickles, whatever, everything. I distinctly remember eating dinner at my best friend’s house, asking for a bottle of ketchup as we dug into a cheese pizza, and her mother looking at me, worried, saying sweetie, there’s already tomato sauce on that thing.

In the end, I won, and I put the ketchup on the pizza, And It Was Good.

In middle school my family took a trip to Ireland to discover the lush green country that produced my mother’s loud, freckly heritage. We spent a lot of time in pubs, not because my parents were the sort to bring their kids along to the bar, but because that’s where things happen in Ireland, at least outside of homes and fields, at least as I understood it. They were generally smoky and made me nervous because I didn’t want to immediately die of lung cancer, and I hated the sips of Guinness that my parents offered. But their greatest redeeming quality was ketchup.

Chef Ketchup—basically the Heinz of Ireland—tastes like your standard-issue ketchup that's been electrified with a generous pour of malt vinegar, which instead of making the tomatoes' acidity louder rounds it out with more body and zing.

For years I dreamed of Chef Ketchup the way we all dream of That One Food we discovered while traveling, which is to say, I thought of it like a long lost lover, and spoke of it obnoxiously any time regular ketchup was served. And then I remembered the internet! I made my first online ketchup order, the sort of thing that really cements your existence in the digital age, and paid ten dollars for shipping, which I assure you is worth it. I keep it on hand for oven-baked fries, bags of potato chips, scrambled eggs, and the occasional slice of pizza.

Chef Ketchup, from $3.19 plus shipping, at foodireland.com.

After a quick Instagram poll, I have discovered that a lot of other people also ate ketchup in weird ways: spread between slices of white bread; atop american cheese; on lima beans, mashed potatoes, and—a classic—mac and cheese. Tell me all about how you used to eat it (or still do!) in the comments below.