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Senior scene

June 30, 2012

As Time Goes Go By: Who knew a simple condiment could do so much?

Did you ever think about how all the colors got their names? Some cave person (to be politically correct) held up a green apple and said, "Red."

Since "red" indicated harvest time all the tribal members ate the green apples thinking that this was a good thing. Not so!

By morning the restrooms were jammed to the hinges and sometime around 3 a.m. they ran out of toilet paper. What a mess! It was not a pretty picture. The only survivors were those standing upwind.

When I was a kid, Saturday night was "Italian Night," at our house. Now Italian Night could consist of any of a wide variety of vegetables served with No. 9 thin spaghetti and ketchup as the sauce. That's it, no meatballs or sausage or anything else _ just plain old ketchup straight from the bottle. Yum, yum good! In today's parlance I was a culturally deprived child.

When my children were old enough to appreciate the finer things in life we would have "Italian Night" and pass the tradition, along with the bottle of ketchup, around the table. Ketchup was put on spaghetti, ergo ketchup was spaghetti "sauce."

Turn the clock forward a number of years to when my joyous new wife, Diane, announced that on the weekend we would celebrate "Italian" night.

Commencing on Wednesday, Diane started gathering ingredients. Sweet Italian sausage, hamburger, cans of tomato sauce, tomato concentrate, crushed tomatoes, celery, onions, spices, and seasonings were stacked either on the floor or in the refrigerator.

The kids looked on in awe because all they had ever seen was a bottle of ketchup. Before Diane, life was so easy; unscrew the cap and thump the bottle on the bottom.

For three days the aroma in our house was indescribably delicious. Caramelized onions, baked sausage, baked hand-formed meatballs, and the sauce became acquainted in a huge 22-quart cooking pot that was kept on the stove with a very "low heat," setting which ensured a constantly bubbling sauce. It was to die for! The only thing that required attention was to ensure that the sauce would not catch on the bottom of the pot.

Saturday arrived and the kids were sitting at the table. Diane brought out the homemade spaghetti sauce and with just the hint of a drum roll and a fanfare of trumpets sat the sauce, the meatballs and sausage with the angel-hair spaghetti in front of the family.

We said "grace" and then my children looked frantically around and in chorus stated, "Where's the ketchup bottle?"

I grabbed the spaghetti bowl put some on my plate and proceeded to add the meat filled sauce onto the spaghetti with as much fanfare as I could muster.

The kids took my hint and did the same.

I wish I could say that the meal ended with cheers to the cook but ketchup verses homemade spaghetti sauce must be like scotch, an acquired taste.

I must confess that I wouldn't eat several of the Italian dishes that my wife cooks without the homemade sauce. In fact her sauce has become the standard that all other sauces are measured against and most of the time you will hear, "almost as good as your sauce, Mom."

For years now, everything has been going along smoothly without snags. This winter, while my mother-in-law was visiting us, Diane purchased some very unique ear-shaped pasta and some spaghetti sauce which contained vodka as a base. (The concept of mixing spaghetti sauce in vodka seems like a "natural".)

I am not flexible to change but if I had been an explorer we would still be in Europe.

Diane cooked up the pasta "ears" and the vodka sauce and placed it on the table. I said in a sincere voice "Where's the ketchup bottle?" There was dead silence. Then Pat, my wonderful mother-in-law and champion spaghetti sauce maker said in a voice dripping with incredulity "Ketchup? You want ketchup?"

Faster than you can say "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," I responded with "ketchup is an important food source and once-upon-a-time was touted to be nutritional by a U.S. President." Her response was, "I bet you believe in the tooth fairy also?" (Tooth fairy no, Santa Claus, yes.")

Since that episode I have been trying to get back into the good graces of "Grandma Pat."

I have been running exhaustive tests on the curative phenomena of ketchup. Deep research indicates that ketchup is much like aspirin. The whole effect has not been found yet but here is what I found out to date:

BAD KNEES: Rub ketchup into the knee that hurts the most. Don't be shy rub them in real good until you start to have a ketchup sensation in the back of your throat _ this will tell you that you are full of it just like me.

If your ketchup starts to wear off you can either add more and go back to sleep or the option is go outside and let all the dogs and cats get a whiff of you.

They will smell the ketchup and think that you are a McDonald's burger or a Wendy's hot and juicy and will chase you as long as your knees hold out. You are guaranteed to lose six pounds of fat this way.

DANDRUFF CONTROL: Use ketchup as a hair shampoo and when you have it all over your head go to a neighbor's house and knock on the door. When they answer tell them you have a "splitting" headache. You will not be able to stop laughing.

I tried it out and my neighbor lost total control of her bladder and every other thing "South of the Border." Unfortunately we were standing in my foyer.

KETCHUP PAINT: Use ketchup instead of paint. Smear it on liberally. This way in case a tornado rips your house apart you can take the splinters of wood-ketchup and by boiling them make delicious tomato bisque. Afterwards you can dry the splinters for the next fire.

Don't forget that ketchup has NO CALORIES. (If you rip off the label).

Remember ketchup has nutritional value _ because a politician and I told you so. If you can trust politicians you can trust me.

Henry Geerken is a three-time NYSUT award-winner writing humorous articles addressing retiree and senior citizen concerns. Geerken also writes for Sail-World, World Cruising Newsletter, regarding his many humorous sailing episodes through the years. He can be reached by e-mail at hgeerken@stny.rr.com. 'Senior Scene' columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/seniorscene.

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