Food

So Brett Kavanaugh Likes Ketchup—Lay Off the Guy

Yes, even about ketchup with pasta.
Brett Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearings. Photograph by Evy Mages.

On the first day of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch peppered his lavish praise of the Supreme Court nominee with one criticism. “Your student reviews are off-the-charts favorable. You volunteer in the community. You coach youth basketball. You’re the sort of person many of us would like to have as a friend and colleague.” Here comes the big but: “You also apparently like to eat pasta with ketchup,” he said. “Nobody’s perfect.”

Kavanaugh, who apparently liked to douse his noodles in ketchup when he was a student at Yale, is not the first politician to get dinged for his use of a bottle of Heinz. Richard Nixon’s habit of mixing cottage cheese with the condiment was called “horrifying” by breakfast blog Extra Crispy. Ronald Reagan’s administration was (OK, rightly) made fun of for trying to classify ketchup as a vegetable, in the hopes of giving schools greater flexibility in what they served for lunch (there was a veggie quota to fill). And of course, there’s Donald Trump, who regularly, and perhaps strategically, flaunts his love of regular Joe food like buckets of chicken—and a well-done steak served with a cup of high-fructose-corn-syrup-sweetened red stuff on the side.

An affinity for ketchup seems to be the food world’s slander of choice for conservatives only—as if it proves they’re hopelessly unadventurous and uncurious about the world, with tastes as boring as a five year-old’s. Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, who is married to Teresa Heinz, got razzed for ordering a cheesesteak with out-of-touch-elitist Swiss cheese instead of with Wiz. Even though President Obama has always frequented copious burger joints (and was known for ordering a medium-well steak)—his thoughts on arugula became the -gate scandal that plagued his early campaign.

As a food critic, it’s my job to tell people what to order. But it’s not my job to tell people what to like. When I’m at home, I put ketchup on my hot dogs—@ me all you want. Sometimes I even put it on my Peruvian chicken! I grew up in ‘80s America. Few things hit my nostalgia-fueled pleasure centers more than Heinz. Making fun of someone for eating ketchup assumes that our food preferences are absolute—that eating pasta with ketchup means we will shun a sauce that’s more refined or more interesting. It overlooks the fact that sometimes we’re in the mood for a certain food, sometimes we’re not. And that perhaps a college student’s goopy concoction was borne out of the need to save money more than anything else.

So sure, attack Kavanaugh’s refusal yesterday to shake a Parkland shooting victim’s father’s hand. Attack his judicial decisions. But the ketchup thing? It’s time to get over it.

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.