“Do we really have to refrigerate ketchup?” 

Over dinner one Sunday night, the subject of ketchup came up. Specifically, the various ways of storing it. Mommyo had always refrigerated ketchup bottles after opening them, so The Nine-Year-Old was somewhat shocked to learn that once upon a time (and even now in certain households) ketchup was not refrigerated.

The Nine-Year-Old, aghast, “Not even after you opened it?” 

Uncle Phil, Ketchup Maven, “Not even then.”

Obviously such an earth-shattering claim required immediate investigation. Sure enough, our bottle of Heinz’ finest states in very small print on the back “For best results, refrigerate after opening.” 

Perhaps not the stern wording Mommy had led The Nine-Year-Old to expect. “For best results” merely seems to imply a mild disappointment in texture or flavor of unrefrigerated ketchup on the part of the consumer, not the outbreak of botulism Mommyo had led The Nine-Year-Old to believe would be the inevitable consequence of failure to refrigerate. 

Well, this situation presented quite the familial minefield. On the one hand, The Nine-Year-Old was confronted with Mommyo, who was firmly in the refrigeration camp, and yet, it must be said, has been known to be incorrect a time or two before. And on the other, there was Uncle Phil, an established non-refrigerator of ketchup, who has not appeared to suffer any ill consequences from a lifetime of keeping his ketchup on the pantry shelf. 

How would the The Nine-Year-Old handle this perplexing situation? 

The Nine-Year-Old, diplomatically: “Daddyo, do we really have to refrigerate ketchup?”

Daddyo, unwilling to venture into this minefield without reinforcements, summoned the Heinz website to his iPhone. There he found the following advice: 

The official position of the Heinz Company on whether or not you need to refrigerate their ketchup after opening. (Source: http://www.heinzketchup.com/FAQ)

There’s something in that answer for everyone. Uncle Phil, who runs through ketchup at an alarming rate, felt validated continuing to store his bottles in the pantry. Mommyo, who tries very hard to keep her ketchup bottles around for more than a month, felt justified in continuing to store hers in the fridge.
Strong work, Heinz. 
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About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book, Did Dinosaurs Have Belly Buttons?, is currently planned for release in 2018. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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