Happy birthday Heinz

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?

15 Responses to Happy birthday Heinz

  1. Diane Newman says:

    Heinz is a personal fave of mine. for me, its the best ketchup.

  2. Amy Snider says:

    As Dana mentioned, we’ve been really creative with ketchup as we’ve developed recipes for Heinzitup.com, but this original creation for Heinz Canada really does take the cake! (Pun intended)

    It took quite a few kitchen tests to get the perfect blend of spices to marry with the unique flavours of our favourite ketchup. The result is a super moist, super delicious celebration cake.

    You just have to try it to believe… Kevin Frankish did this morning on BT!

  3. Barb says:

    I thought I liked you before Dana, but after reading this and learning a bit of your history I have a whole new respect for you and how you have come to be where you are. Good for you!

    Now for your question. Do I like ketchup? What kind of a question is that?! Of course I do! Yes, my favorite brand if Heinz but I have seen The Shopping Bags do a taste test of four or five different brands and a supermarket brand came out the clear winner. I, however, have not been able to bring myself to buy any other brand as yet.

  4. truenorth67 says:

    I saw Kevin Frankish’s cake on BT this morning and it looked delish and he did say it was easy.

    The descriptive was that it tasted like a spiced carrot cake…I’m hip to that.

  5. Cheryl A says:

    My Dido used to put Heinz in Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup. Other than Jello, those were probably the only not-from-scratch foods in my Baba’s house. I’ve never seen a more disgusting use of ketchup.

    I only use ketchup on my burgers and fries. Oh, and scrambled eggs. Yes, it is always Heinz. I made my own ketchup last fall. Good, but A LOT of effort.

  6. Jacki Armstrong says:

    I love this post. Heinz is the ketchup of choice in my home, but use it rarely. But what I enjoyed the most about your post was reading about your journey. About the choices you have made, for whatever reasons, and how they have brought you where you are today. This is exactly where I am in my life right now. How my choices have affected my journey (some of them not so brilliant). I now put a great deal of thought into the choices I make today, as I forecast where these decisions will lead my baby and myself. I don’t now where we will end up but I do have only good intentions. I do know that my thought processes are clearer than they were 20 or so years ago. So I plan for the best, expect some bumps and accept that rest is up to “Him”. And I will continue to use Heinz! 🙂
    So thank you Dana, again, for sharing.

  7. danamccauley says:

    I gotta be honest Cheryl A, even my dad and brother never added ketchup to soup – that is pretty awful!

    Martin, my hubby, makes his own ketchup at Pangaea but I have to say, I prefer the bottled stuff. His is great but it’s just not what my palate registers as ketchup.

  8. Debbi Dubbs says:

    Heinz is the only ketchup (unless it’s mine) that is allowed in this food house!

  9. Your family must have been thrilled when Heinz became one of your customers. Did you get unlimited free ketchup?

    I’m not much of a consumer of ketchup – mostly french fries, grilled cheese and burgers – but I’d like to make my own this summer.

  10. cheryl says:

    Wow, I feel like I’m in the minority, but I buy the generic Trader Joe’s house brand in the States. Wait… hello? It suddenly got very quiet here. Have I been excommunicated from the church of Heinz?

  11. danamccauley says:

    Cheryl, you are always welcome on these hallowed pages!

    BTW did you guys know that Finland and then Canada are the top two per capita users of ketchup (all brands) globally?

  12. I rarely eat ketchup, reserving it for grilled cheese sandwiches and (I’m embarrassed to confess) macaroni and cheese.

    Other than that, I admit to an anti-ketchup stance. I think this stems from a fateful Thanksgiving when a young guest requested ketchup for his slice of perfectly cooked turkey breast. My mother refused but I got the lasting impression that ketchup was beneath her.

  13. Heather says:

    Heinz all the way! I love my ketchup!

  14. […] of big red cake-crumbed lips kissing you on the cheek. Just like the way I want to hug and kiss Dana for one of the most unusual additions I’ve ever seen, to a cake. I mean, tomato ketchup? I […]

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