I remember being shocked when my Russian professor told me that people in Russia don't like ketchup. The shock continued when I later discovered that (with some exceptions) ketchup is not a very popular condiment anywhere outside of the USA. It's America's favorite condiment! It is delicious and versatile! How is it possible that so few people outside of the States like ketchup?

This question has been percolating in the back of my mind for several years now. Every now and then it bubbles up and I ponder it for a while. But the question has always been so perplexing that I just stuff it back inside, bottling it up along with my emotions. Finally, after years of searching, I have stumbled upon the answer, and man it feels good. Like the cork shooting out of a bottle of champagne. The reason people outside of the US do not like ketchup is because ketchup outside of the US is straight up nasty.

Hunt's and Heinz 57 make pretty decent ketchup, but Whataburger has, in my opinion, the best ketchup in the world. Some subtle sweetness from the "tomatoes", a little saltiness, slight tang, robust texture and just the right amount of Red #40 to give an appetizing color. In contrast, Honduran ketchup is kind of watery with a grainy texture, exaggerated sweetness, slightly sour (as in rancid, not lemon-y) aftertaste, and is a very unnatural shade of orange-red. The taste is bearable, but it is by no means pleasant, and it certainly does not add to the integrity of whatever food you may be globbing it onto. If this is the norm for ketchup outside of the US, it is no small wonder that many people are repulsed by the mere idea of this condiment.

At this point, I should add that by "many people", I am not including Hondurans. In a bizarre deviation from the normal global anti-ketchup trend, Hondurans love this condiment (particularly local brands) and use it for and on just about everything. EVERY. THING. Take, for example, the spaghetti that is served in our school's cafeteria: noodles stirred in ketchup with quesillo sprinkled on top (the quesillo is added because the noodles-and-ketchup combination is not nasty enough on its own). Or the huevos rancheros I had on my way back from Teguz the other day: fried eggs drowned in ketchup (NOT the delicious salsa I had been anticipating). I recently served as a tasting judge for the 8th graders' activities class (kind of like home ec.) One group made "pizza" (a corn tortilla with ketchup and quesillo). The other group made grilled corn-on-the-cob (quick side note: the grilled corn down here is better than the grilled corn-on-the-cob you get at the state fair, which I didn't think was possible), which they decided was too boring. Not to be out done by the other group's cunning use of ketchup and quesillo, they dunked the cob into a bowl of ketchup and then rolled it in crumbled quesillo. There is not a lot of good things I can say about that dish in particular, but I will grant them that it was by no means "boring".

I do not know if this love of ketchup extends beyond the borders of Honduras. But if you ever travel this way, take caution in ordering anything that may have some form of tomato on it. The cook may very well substitute the tomato with ketchup.

This is Kelley Stephan, your foreign food correspondent, over and out. Next installment will be up soon (I have a decently working computer AND internet simultaneously now. It's pretty exciting.)