Kitsch and Ketchup Dispensers: A Global at Heart Moment

Ok, here it is – the first official Global at Heart Moments post — my attempt at semi-real-time dispatches “from the field” while I’m traveling. I’m off to a slow start, but here goes…

What’s a Global at Heart Moment?

In case you need a refresher, my working definition of a “Global at Heart Moment” is “an instant when cultures (gently) collide, leading to a new understanding, an interpersonal connection (however brief), or simply a smile.” For more explanation, read my introductory post here.

Kitsch, Ketchup, Kitchens

Looking for a snack (and a drink), this past Sunday, my London-dwelling friend, Anna, and I stopped into a little corner bar / restaurant called Ben’s Canteen. We were in Earlsfield, a quiet but upwardly moving south London residential neighborhood.

We ordered some fried goodies: duck nuggets, sweet potato chips, and onion rings to go with our Bloody Marys. Alongside our food, the server set down a small plate of mayo and some ketchup in a tomato-shaped dispenser.

The scene at Ben's Canteen: Bloody Mary, duck nuggets, sweet potato chips, onion rings, and words of wisdom
The scene at Ben’s Canteen: Bloody Mary, duck nuggets, sweet potato chips, onion rings, and words of wisdom

Allow me to paraphrase the conversation:

“Oh, that’s a cute ketchup bottle,” I said.

The server looked at me, a little oddly, and said, “You haven’t seen those before?”

“No… At home most of the restaurants serve it in Heinz bottles so you know it’s actually Heinz,” I said. “People are rather particular about their ketchup.”

“Oh, well in Oz we always put our ketchup in these. I don’t really like them. I think they’re a bit tacky, actually,” said the server. “We call it tomato sauce, not ketchup, though. But we all put our … ketchup … in those.”

(Can anyone out there corroborate this?)

I decided not to get into the finer points of ketchup versus tomato sauce. Even though I’ve been to Australia, however, this was not something I’d encountered before. Maybe it’s because, unlike 99.9% of all Americans, I loathe ketchup and can’t keep it far enough away from me. 🙂

In any case, one woman’s cute is another’s kitsch, I suppose. We did have a nice snack and learn something about Australians’ take on tomato-based condiments and their dispensers.

Afterward, we walked past another restaurant a few doors down, guess what: Every table had one of those little tomato-shaped containers. Maybe it really is a thing.

Let’s Ask Google

Later I Googled “Australian tomato-shaped ketchup bottles.” Sure enough, I found them mainly on UK and Australian sites. However, one site described the product as a “70s-style tomato-shaped sauce dispenser like those seen in American diners.” So now I’m caught in a bit of a cultural reference loop… is it American? Australian? Australians’ take on American? I guess it’s global at heart… (wah wah)

Share Your Stories, Snippets, Snapshots

I’d like to invite you to share your own Global at Heart Moments from travels or your life at home. If you’d be willing to let me post them (with full credit to the author), contact me here

Want to have more Global at Heart moments of your own? Let me help you with a personalized travel plan.

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