Some would say "food group," but it still flavors, enhances and texturizes some of our other favorite foods.
Think about it - what's a Labor Day barbecue without a the grilling of burger, the melting of cheese and the slathering of ketchup? It's a rite of summer, all be it, the end of summer. But the taste stays with you all winter and when Memorial Day comes back around, as we honor our fallen heroes, we can do it all again with meat, cheese and ketchup.
Most of us probably also garnish our burgers with a little lettuce and sliced tomato.
There's a radio show called the Prairie Home Companion that runs on National Public Radio on Saturdays and Sundays. If you haven't heard, I suggest you do.
They do a bit where they spoof advertising campaigns and one of those campaigns is brought to us by the Ketchup Advisory Council, a supposed consortium of tomato growers and ketchup producers who push the comic envelope with bits about how ketchup can enhance your sex life or make your hair grow back.
I'm only being semi-facetious - they say its a cure-all. I recall one bit about how it can cure depression.
But if the council were an actual group, I wonder what they would say about what goes on in the tiny town of Bunol, Spain - the annual tomato fight.
According to news reports, the government there dumps tons of ripe red tomatoes on the ground and the locals thereafter engage in a cheerful pounding of their neighbors with juicy, seedy goodness. The whole thing results in rivers of tomato sauce flowing down the streets, slime-covered buildings and I'm sure more than a few weeks of good business for the local dry cleaner. It's known as the Tomatina.
The story I read goes that in the 1940s, some kids got into a fight at a vegetable stand somewhere in town. The next year, they regrouped to bean unsuspecting bystanders with the fruit (and it is a fruit) rather than themselves.
Tradition is a wonderful thing. At least they're not running bulls like they do in some other Spanish towns.
So this Labor Day weekend, as you're grilling out, (because you're likely not going anywhere) remember the joys of ketchup, tomatoes and the Tomatina.
Michael Davis covers government for the Daily Herald. His column appears on Fridays. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org