British colonials probably have a stronger sense of class than their peers back in “sunny old England” and these middle class roots for most, how themselves boldly at the dinner table.
Children are taught, for the most part, to eat at the table with a full complement of cutlery, a place mat, a napkin and a side plate. Even though the ceremony may have lapsed a little, in many, the memory of a laid table will still hold out.
One item that was present but not ever-present for me at least, was the All Gold Tomato Sauce bottle. A wide necked glass bottle full of viscous ketchup.
No other substitutes would do, none of this Pot-o-Gold, Tomango, Rabroy nonsense. If it wasn’t All Gold, it wasn’t tomato sauce.
We also had a knock off of HP brown sauce called NB sauce – something similar to A1 steak sauce but much better. Instead of a picture of the houses of parliament, a picture of Victoria Falls.
I digress though. I just wanted to emphasize that sauces in bottles were not unusual. They simply had their function and were there for specific circumstances. If you were having fish and chips for example. Salt, vinegar and tomato sauce were all quite acceptable. In fact, pretty much the only time it was acceptable to have tomato sauce was when there were chips on offer – and of course by chips, I mean deep fried potato wedges or skinny cut french fries. The latter were rarer and required more effort to prepare.
If you went to a restaurant, of course you might find tomato sauce (ketchup) on the table and of course could use it. If you were visiting someone though, you would NEVER ask for tomato sauce or ketchup. Though ironically, asking for horse-radish, mustard or mint sauce seemed ok. Asking for tomato sauce was just low class and an insult to the chef or the host(ess) in that you suggested the meal was bland and tasteless.
My children have been somewhat educated in this but I have to admit that as I have grown older it has become less of a peeve.
In the end though it remains a concern.
One wants one’s children to be socially presentable in all situations – you never know when they might have a Tarzan of the Apes moment and inadvertently choose to drink their soup from the bowl directly. Asking or tomato sauce with everything is just bad form.
I knew this wasn’t limited to tomato sauce. It actually applies to almost any meal. If you’re not served up with something and you’re visiting and ask for something not on the table, it gets the host(ess) out of their groove.
Over on Quora a contributor described how he had to rustle up some barbecue sauce for a rude guest who said she couldn’t eat ribs without it – how absurd!
Here was a grown, well-educated woman who felt that she literally couldn’t eat ribs without sauce, thereby denying herself an opportunity to enjoy a dish that everyone else thought was excellent.
As stated by one of the other writers “a gracious guest would show a little class”. – there’s the word. Class, it IS a matter of class.
Pouring ketchup (tomato sauce) on someone else’s creation is highly insulting and insensitive to the host – worse, is when the offending sauce is asked for, before even tasting the food. It’s up there with asking for salt and pepper without tasting the food. How would you know what the host has done with the food before you have even tasted it.
Another writer over on Food52.com writes : When I see the sriracha sauce going on, I feel like my effort was wasted and its intentions ignored. Put another way, it’s kind of like a gift you’re giving – and isn’t it bad manners for the recipient to immediately start trying to rearrange the teeth in the gift horse’s mouth?
My grandmother would always ask for cheese when eating apples. Something she liked, something that irked my mother. However all at the same time, my parents accepted that ‘Americans’ had their own way of doing things.
We would often play home host to visiting guests from abroad and more than once I recall a visitor asking for ketchup and my mother visibly curling up inside but graciously having a bowl of ketchup delivered from the kitchen.
Delivered in a bottle to the table, was just not the way to do it.
I guess in the end, my middle class roots show when I give the children a stern look when they ask to get the sriracha, ketchup or in fact insist that we have it – with roast chicken in particular!
My advice is think carefully before you ask for the sauce.