What’s Up with Ketchup & Mustard?

“A household name is like ketchup. Everybody wants ketchup. Ketchup doesn’t hurt anybody.” — Louis C. K.

“Mustard’s no good without roast beef.” — Chico Marx

When my partnership of 15 years ended, 12 of which we lived together, I began asking myself a lot of questions. The obvious ones of course — what went wrong,  could I have saved the relationship, why didn’t I see this coming, did I become too complacent, did I take her for granted, did we simply lose interest in each other?

Those questions were quickly followed by a number of more mundane and practical questions, more precisely a series of choices which began the first time I went grocery shopping as a newly single person. I did most of the grocery shopping for our household when we were together and I have always been a brand-loyal shopper.

In fact, at the checkout counter I don’t hesitate to answer the cashier honestly when asked, “Did you find everything today?” You can count on my answer, “No, you were out of fill in the brand  fill in the product.” Yes, I’ve become that person. If they’re out of Seattle’s Best Number 5 Dark Roast Coffee, it’s like they’re out of coffee!

When I became a single person again, I began questioning some of the compromises and negotiations I had made with my partner over the years. Where I had been a Chunky Skippy Peanut Butter consumer before our relationship, I became a Creamy Jif. Where I had once chosen Bertolli Marinara for the base of my spaghetti sauce, I now put Prego in my cart, because my partner preferred the sweeter  taste — and probably the biggest sacrifice on my part — regardless of what you think about the culinary merits of ketchup ­— I had eaten Heinz for as long as I can remember, and to avoid buying two different brands of ketchup — for twelve years I ate Hunts reluctantly.

When I went grocery shopping that first time as a single person, my cart was now filled with all the important staples and the brands I was loyal to including, Bertolli Marinara and Heinz Ketchup. I must admit, in the spirit of full disclosure, after 12 years of eating Creamy Jif, I crossed over from Chunky Skippy and forged a new loyalty.

Like most Americans and most Wisconsinites, I like ketchup and mustard on my hot dogs, brats, and hamburgers. I add ketchup to meat loaf, and mustard and mayo on sandwiches. And, while we’re on the subject of mustard and mayo,  I’m strictly French’s Yellow Mustard (unless I opt for a good German mustard instead) and a Hellman’s Mayonnaise girl, no Miracle Whip or off-brand mayo for me.


Needless to say, I was in shock and awe when I first saw a commercial introducing new Heinz Yellow Mustard, followed a few days later by French’s Tomato Ketchup. What?

My head was spinning — all those years of pairing French’s Yellow Mustard and Heinz Tomato Ketchup — and now I’m being asked to consider French’s Tomato Ketchup and Heinz Yellow Mustard, or some combination of the two condiments, now with double the variations of ketchup and mustard options. 


The irony of the situation was further driven home while watching the Mad Men finale this past weekend which was famous for product placements, both within the story (Heinz Ketchup was the prize product in the Heinz family of products the advertising agency sought to represent) and also during  the commercial breaks as an advertising sponsor.

During a prime commercial break in the finale, we’re introduced to a story of two couples: French’s Yellow Mustard and her friend, Hot Dog, as they accidentally run into the new happy couple, Heinz Yellow Mustard and Heinz Tomato Ketchup at a BBQ. Just like real life when exes unexpectedly cross paths and meet for the first time, it can be a little uncomfortable, especially when Heinz Ketchup seems pretty compatible and smitten with his new partner, Heinz Yellow Mustard. Oh my!

I’ll have to talk with the experts on these recent developments to get the insider’s scoop. I’ll plan a visit to a Madison, Wisconsin neighbor, Middleton, Wisconsin, famous for its Good Neighbor Festival and the home of The National Mustard Museum,  where both Heinz and French’s Yellow Mustard are but minor characters in the world of mustard.

NMDMark your calendar for August 1, 2015, National Mustard Day. Visit the museum or visit the website to purchase mustard and mustard swag (who knew?), read the mustard blogs to find out everything you’ve ever wanted to know about mustard.

Yes, it’s a big world out there ketchup and mustard!


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2 thoughts on “What’s Up with Ketchup & Mustard?

  1. Sarah White says:

    Not only great timing for a condiment war story, but a great example of “object writing” — the use of concrete things to ground our stories in specifics that can be universally understood. Always a fan of your writing, Linda!

    • Linda Lenzke says:

      Thanks, Sarah. You continue to inform as a writing coach and mentor. I didn’t realize I was employing “object writing” until your comment arrived. Thank you for the kind words.

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