Happy birthday Heinz

April 30, 2009

smiling plateOne of my favourite sayings is “life has a life of its own.” For me this cliché has proven itself to be very true. You can set goals, plan and anticipate the steps you need to take to travel from point ‘A’ in your life to point ‘B’ and have general success in your planning; but, along the way, life will take a few unexpected turns that will ultimately take you to the place you really need to be.

That’s the story of my career, in fact. People think I was very clever to get a degree in English literature and then go to chef school to become a food writer. However, in all honesty, I went to chef school dismayed by the lack of job satisfaction brought my way by my university degree. Chef school was supposed to lead to a restaurant career. In the end, the two bits of training conspired without my knowledge and led me down a wonderful job path as a food writer that I wouldn’t trade for the world. My life just somehow turned out.

The same is true about my attitudes. Over time, they’ve evolved and I’ve grown confident enough to own up to my less than gourmet food proclivities. For instance, I grew up in a household where Heinz ketchup was on the table for every meal. My father and brother slopped it over eggs, sandwiches, mashed potatoes and meats of all kinds. While I was always a user myself (French fries and Grilled Cheese are just not complete for me without ketchup!), I was a terrific critic of my family’s slavish ketchup use – especially after I became a chef school student and perfected my disdainful sneer.

As fate would have it, when I transitioned from restaurant chef to consumer recipe and food writer, Heinz became one of my customers. Over the many years I’ve worked with the brand, I’ve taken that condiment to places my father and brother literally would never, ever have envisioned on their own. I dare say, I’m the one who sometimes grosses them out now. From grilling sauces and meatloaves to pad Thai and sweet and sour chicken; our test kitchen has developed, tested or edited every single recipe on the Heinzitup! website.

Our latest triumph is using ketchup as an ingredient in layer cakes. While Amy Snider and I could have just sloshed ketchup into any old recipe and crossed our fingers, we took a step back and thought about what ketchup could offer a cake recipe to make it better or easier than making a similar recipe that already exists. In the Great Canadian Heinz Ketchup Cake, the ketchup is a short cut ingredient that adds the flavours of cloves and ginger that make a terrific pantry spice cake. (BTW, you can see the team at BT Toronto tasting our cake this morning.)

Given how entwined my own life has been with ketchup, I’m not surprised that as Heinz celebrates its 100th anniversary in Canada that it’s still one of our favourite condiments and short cut ingredients. I don’t know what the next 100 years can hold for ketchup lovers, but somehow I have a feeling that in 2109, it will still be common on many Canadian family dinner tables.

Do you eat ketchup? And, if you do, are you loyal to a particular brand?