The last time I saw him, we were only five years old. I remembered the boy’s feet kicking against my chair from the seat behind me in kindergarten class, but I could no longer remember his name. His nickname in class, on the other hand, stuck with me. We called him Red—not based on the color of his hair, but on the color of his food. There are those amongst us who claim they can eat the same thing every day and never get sick of it. A hyperbole for most, but in the case of Red, it was something I witnessed first hand. During our daily lunchtime, Red would take out a Tupperware container of fried rice and proceed to coat every grain of it with a thick layer of ketchup. I can still see those chubby hands fumbling for the adult strength needed to squeeze out that extra bit of scarlet goop. And when he was done, everything was painted red. Kids are weird. They can’t help it; they’re filled with loose bundles of predilections that haven’t solidified into proper personalities yet. So it shocked me when Red grew up to be exactly who he said he was going to be. He had always known what he wanted to do: be an architect. He had always known where he’d live: San Francisco. He even knew the color of the car he’d buy: forest green. These things went from being a homework assignment question to Red’s real life. “Kids?” I asked, during our lunch meeting. “Two sons,” he smiled. “Happy?” I followed up. He chuckled and nodded. But the real case of déjà vu hit me when his order arrived at the table: a plate of fried rice on top of which he scooped a large dollop of ketchup. It was THE Red lunch of yesteryear. Our current food education teaches us that people graduate to new levels of tastes. The wines you liked as a novice become too sweet or flat once you’ve become a more seasoned drinker. But Red never graduated. He never even enrolled in the program. And he had it right all along. Malcolm Gladwell once wrote about the miracle of ketchup in The New Yorker. Of the five fundamental tastes—salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami (a “meaty” flavor)—ketchup covers every base. It satisfies on all levels, and what’s more – it continues to satisfy us regardless of how many times we’ve tried it. Grownups and kids all fall victim to its crimson charm. And this begs the question of what’s wrong with food these days if it’s almost expected that we’d grow out of them. Why can’t chefs create timeless flavors that don’t diminish in pleasure? Why can’t we have more “ketchups” in the world? I watched Red finish every bite of his meal and lean back in his chair, content. “So, Red, what do you want to be when you grow up even more?” He wiped his mouth on a cloth napkin, leaving the same sort of ketchup stains smeared over his uniform as a child. “Still happy,” he finally answered, and we both let out a laugh and a sigh. I think he’ll make it. Stay happy, that is. And most likely, he’ll be doing it all while covering his meals in ketchup.