Poor, poor tomato

NOTE:  Neither science nor literature has ever really given us a worthy synonym for “ketchup packet,” so I am forced to reiterate the term ad nauseum. Get over it or get lost, and let’s get rockin’…

On the eve of (okay, now it’s the afternoon after) Heinz’s announcement of a totally redesigned, user-friendly, and—unfortunately (you’ll see)—3x bigger ketchup packet, I’ll admit I have mixed emotions.

Such a product reawakens a gripe I’ve been brooding over (not continuously, mind you) for years. I may have more than a few contemptible qualities, but being wasteful is certainly not one of them. In fact, I detest wastefulness—it is an entirely human concept, entirely unnecessary and not at all in concert with Ma Nature. So, whilst a better ketchup packet is certainly long overdue, it’s progress at the expense of innocent tomatoes. Allow me to elucidate…

In my heart of hearts, I just know tomatoes are the most wasted fruit by far (yes, the tomato is a fruit; now pipe down and keep reading). Why? Ketchup packets, that’s why.

Do you know how much ketchup (and tomato-based hot sauce) is needlessly thrown away every day, without even being opened? I’ll tell you how much. I did some calculations, and my abacus tells me that Heinz alone produces more than 462,000 lbs of ketchup packets per day. Per DAY, and all (until this new behemoth takes over) in the form of tiny, malleable, 9g, aluminum-alloy-lined packets. Let’s say, conservatively, that 20% of those packets get discarded. That’s over 92,000 lbs of wasted ketchup in a single day. Almost 34 million lbs per year! I’m talking 2.5x heavier than the Hoover Dam of wasted ketchup packets each year, and that’s just Heinz. Being a tomato must really, really suck.

Why is it we’ve failed to grasp this whole moderation thing when it comes to ketchup packets? For reasons unknown (my hunch:  laziness), fast food cashiers/freedom fry monkeys tend to shower us with extravagant amounts of ketchup packets. Like stupid amounts, inasmuch as no human could possibly find a practical use for them all. I tell you, it makes me a lighter shade of pale just thinking about it. As a result, we’re forced either to toss these mint-condition packets in the rubbish bin (for “sanitary” reasons, it’s rather taboo to return them to said fry monkeys; “sanitary” is the same rationalization given for ethnic cleansing), or to shove them under parked car wheels as a senseless, puerile prank.

And let’s be honest, who doesn’t have a junk drawer with at least three ketchup packets hiding in it, just waiting to be scrapped when you finally get around to cleaning it out?

But enough about ketchup. You’re picking up what I’m laying down. The bad news is, it gets even worse for the selfless tomato.

In yet another form of blatant tomato disrespect, we have unpulverized beefsteak tomato slices, a staple garnish (along with their wasted cohorts, lettuce, onion and pickled cucumber spear) for most any bunned sandwich. How often do we use this garnish? To be sure, not often enough. Not by a longshot.

Oh, and let’s not forget about La Tomatina, that annual massacre (from a tomato’s perspective) of a tomato fight in Buñol, Spain (near Valencia). On the last Wednesday in August, 150,000 tomatoes—just about 90,000 lbs—give their lives, and for what? A picture? A crap YouTube video? A chance to stain a tattered t-shirt? A fleeting memory?

(the horror! the horror!)

Then of course, there’s salsa. Most popular condiment in North America, top 3 worldwide. Yeah, I wouldn’t contradict me on this tomato thing.

I guess my long-winded point is, the new ketchup packet Heinz is touting without a trace of remorse, while indeed nifty and ergonomic, is nothing short of a death knell for tomatoes. An inevitable and veritable holocaust of tomato wastage. Again, it’s 3x bigger than before; hence, 2 new packets = 6 old packets. This could get very ugly, very fast.

If I were a mother tomato (and thank evolution I’m not), I’d be just sick about it—knowing even more of my seeds would never reach their potential, and therefore would have germinated for naught.

That being said, I’ll wager tomatoes—of all the fruits—have the lowest expectations for themselves, and for good reason. There’s a better-than-decent chance you’ll be be cooped up in an airtight packet in some landfill for the next 500 years, or however long it takes for those things to degrade. People plead with us to “please, think of the children.” I say, “Up yours, children. Somebody please, think of the tomatoes.”

So the next time you see a tomato, or a tomato-based product, do humanity and yourself a favor and apologize. Profusely. It’s really the least you can do.

By dint of cnet

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~ by zactopia on February 5, 2010.

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