Summer is here and that means beach parties shirtless touch football Rollerblading in my short shorts ketchup!  Yes, just when your winter stores are starting to run out, that tangy seasonal condiment is finally back on store shelves ready to adorn the most severely charred of your fire grilled hot dogs.

Although the spring droughts were severe this year, and although the American Ketchup Foundation issued a statement warning enthusiasts that the tomato crop shortages in Panama might lead to a diminished shelf presence, rationing, and inflated prices, it does appear that retailers all across the country will be able stock up their end cap aisle displays to full capacity with plenty of time left before the July 4th rush.

And that’s a relief because there is nothing worse than having an Independence Day pool party and cocktail formal without bottles and bottles of the devilishly red elixir.  So gather your snacks and spirits, fire up the Weber, and settle in with kith and kin for the annual national viewing of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest as we communally celebrate the things that make this country great: gluttony, exhibitionism, and extravagant, extravagant waste.

I’ve never been to a Whataburger.  The closest one is about 200 miles away.  While that’s not prohibitively far away, especially considering I’m off work for the next two months and have literally nothing to do, it is just far enough to be mostly impractical.

There was a Whataburger about five miles away from my home that was open for a couple of years but I never stopped in, despite passing it numerous times and telling myself I had to remember to try it out.  I was always charmed by its old-timey color scheme and IHOPian cathedral roof structure.

That remains one of life’s little regrets.  It’s not one of those major life regrets like never asking out that one person you were secretly and deeply in love with, or deciding not to fake your death for insurance purposes, but it is one of those little annoying regrets that chips away at you over time.  And I’d argue that makes it worse.  I mean, what was I doing all that time?  There was no reason for me not to stop in.  Ugh.  Frustrating.

I’m sure I’ll visit one someday.  Probably when I head out to Texas next to visit friends.  Texas is a fast food paradise where I was able to check off both In-N-Out Burger and Jack in the Box from the bucket list during my last trip.  But until then, I will be happy to sate my longings with Whataburger’s ketchup line.

Plus, it’s always exciting when fast food empires jump into the retail grocery game.  Looking at you Burger King potato snacks I always see at the dollar store.

These two ketchups, Fancy and Spicy, arrived in Texas stores last month, and I was quick to put my best hetero lifemate and Texas food enthusiast, Erik, on the case.  (Whataburger Mustard is also available in stores, but not at the store in which these were wrangled.)  He ventured out on release day and sent some across the gulf post-haste. Because he is a hero.

I don’t love ketchup, but I do indulge from time to time, usually on French fries.  Never on all of the French fries, mind you, probably one out of every four.  And I did once make a batch of ketchup from a recipe dating to the 1800s for a retro recipe blog I started a while back. (That blog still consists of only that one post.)

First off, simple and effective packaging.  Evocative of the brand without being pushy.  Well played.

The nosegrope of the Fancy Ketchup is that of ketchup.  Obviously nothing to report there.  The nosegrope of the Spicy Ketchup, however, is a little more dressed up.  You can definitely smell the spice from the jalapeno in the ingredients list.  It has a salsa-y vibe.

The Fancy Ketchup tastes not unlike any other fancy ketchup I’ve ever had in my life.  It’s sweet but has a little more tang and bite to it than Heinz.  A little more assertive in the vinegar department. Very nice overall.

The Spicy Ketchup has a pronounced earthiness to it.  It is also tangy and vinegary.  And a bit salsa-y, but the tomato, onion, garlic, and vinegar quickly give way to the spice.  It’s not overly hot, but it was more than I was expecting.  It coats the tongue and lingers for quite a while, building intensity with each bite.  I am not usually a fan of spicy things but I enjoyed this Spicy Ketchup.

While there is nothing wrong with the Fancy Ketchup, given a choice, I would go with the Spicy.  It’s just more interesting. Something different.  I’m surprised more fast food joints don’t offer more than regular ketchup.  Good on you, Whataburger.

So in conclusion, this July 4th, as you sit down with wife and children to watch Eater X devour an inhumane amount of hot dogs, why not see if you can track down a bottle of Whataburger Spicy Ketchup.  Your family will appreciate it and love you a little more.  That and processed beef parts are what the holidays are all about.