ComPost Live with Alexandra Petri

Feb 20, 2018

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Live chat with Alexandra Petri at 11 a.m. ET. Submit questions and comments for her to respond to now.

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Connect on Twitter: @petridishes And catch up with the blog here!

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Welcome back from your weekend! 

A weasel walks into a bar. The bartender says "I've never seen a weasel in here before! What would you like?" "Pop," goes the weasel.

Oh, a Midwestern weasel!

I got a job in a duty-free shop. I quit because they kept giving me things to do. That's just wrong.

The name was certainly very misleading! 


Hello, Garfield, and welcome to the chat!

Regarding the Will Shortz puzzle in last week's chat (name a famous actor whose last name is also the name of a company, and whose first name, dropping its last letter, is the type of product that company makes): I thought of Alec Guinness, figured that couldn't be what he meant, then checked and discovered it was. No no no, Will Shortz. Guinness is not ale. Admittedly, if you go to the Guinness website and look at all the different beers they produce, one of them is an ale. So the answer is technically not wrong, just weak weak weak. The beer that you and I and everyone knows as Guinness is a stout. Harrumph.

I am going to claim that THIS was the reason I did not get the question right! It was because I knew too much about Guinness, not that I had momentarily forgotten the name of this beloved actor. 

Alexandra, I've wondered how many of us on average have important Executive Time each Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. Too many to have a Meet Up in a cafe, not enough to reserve a ballroom? Just curious. Can the WaPo even tell how many offer questions and how many are lurkers?

You know, I don't know the answer to this. I have a rough sense, but I still don't have a good breakdown of lurkers/people who send their questions in advance/people who read the chat afterwards/participants. I think if we can get a ballroom, we should get a ballroom! 

Who's there? Weevil. Weevil who? Weevil, weevil rock you.

Why did Ted Cruz's friend refuse to accompany him to the Ramones Concert? 

"Because I want to be sedate, Ted."

Mine extends until 2 p.m., what with Weingarten and Robinson and now Dr. Andrea Bonior.

Ah, luxury! 

You'd probably have to do some fancy IP analysis too. There are also clearly some people who send in multiple posts in the same hour. Then again, some of them may also be workers on a Russian troll farm! Look out for poor English!

That is why I am always generating content like "Always Ready For A Texas Size" and "In Love With Texas Shape"! 

Mebbe, if his mother arranged a series of play dates and bribed the other kid's mother.

I anticipated that this objection would come up -- but there exists at least one article describing a person he's friends with in detail! 

Ted Cruz doesn't have any friends.

Okay, fine, chat, but he has at least one attested friend! 

just got called for an interview - i am a solo practitioner and this would be a VERY BIG DEAL so,,,,,, that happened.


...and any other stout, is a type of ale.

Nooo but I felt so good being right!


What did Mozart drink magic champagne in?

A Magic Flute! 

Why is President's Day a big day for mattress sales? This was even before Trump reportedly ate Mickey Ds in bed and watched Fox.

I don't know why they keep Lincoln presidents to mattresses! I guess any three-day-weekend that isn't commemorating something deeply serious you can use to sell a mattress? Also, if I were a mattress marketer I would definitely do some sort of Godfather-themed campaign called "IN TIMES OF TROUBLE, GO TO THE MATTRESSES!" 

while suffering from the flu. However, it is necessary to mute the sound. They get very excited and yell at each other. That is not ideal. But gliding rocks and people polishing the ice surface are very soothing in total silence. And the possibility of an elastic collision at the end of the glide is about as much excitement as the fevered brain should endure.

Oh no, I am so sorry you are under the weather! The olympics in general I think are quite fun to watch when ill, and generally soothing except when people hurtle into the air. I enjoy watching curling, but this year I got very into Ice Dancing because I was sucked into the swirling conspiracy around whether or not Canadian ice dancers Virtue and Moir are Deeply In Love And The Internet Just Needs To Tell Them Using Evidence From GIFs. 

I have to pipe up in defense of Will Shortz. All beers are either ales or lagers--it depends on the type of yeast used to brew the beer in questions. A stout happens to be a style of ale.

Where do lagers start and ales stop? 

Many of the current WaPo crosswords are really contrived. Sorta trite, or at least too far-reaching and cutesy. And yeah, I am a total crossword nerd. Does that make me a cross-nerd?

Or even a cross word nerd! Why not both?

Will Shortz's clues were perhaps clear as Guiness Stout, but they were accurate. Stout is a type of ale; it's brewed with ale yeasts at ale temperatures. And Guiness's first beer, long before they brewed their iconic stout, was a paler shade of ale. Which camp is geekier, I wonder---puzzlers or beer geeks?

This is amazing and I am glad to learn more about it! I look forward to pulling up at the bar and saying, "I would like an iconic beverage brewed with ale yeasts at ale temperatures!"

Yawn. This happened with Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean 30-some years ago. They weren't, and had to keep denying it.

Ah, but there were no GIFs then! The GIFs make all the difference. 

Also, settling a bet. Is ketchup good or bad? 

So there.

I don't know, you will have to tangle with all the people posting at length about ales brewed with hops of a certain type! 

what happens to the (US?) couple that are brother and sister. That is either little creepy, or they have to do without the buzz. Hardly seems fair.

No, I agree re: the unfairness! One of the Go Fug Yourself writers was also posting about this on Twitter -- it seems like having to use the vocabulary of dance to tell a story that isn't driven by romance is a much higher level of difficulty! Anyone can stare smolderingly at a partner in a low-cut pirate shirt! The Shib Sibs should get a bonus for managing to do something different!

reminds me of how you define a Yankee: if you're a Southerner, it's a Northerner. If you're a Northerner, it's a New Englander (or at least this used to be the case). And if you're a New Englander, it's someone from Maine. It sounds like we are arguing several definitions of ale here.

And we are doing it at 11:41 in the morning, in an entirely theoretical manner, which is the worst way to argue over ale. 

I'd as soon spread sugar on my hamburger or hot dog.

Okay, so far: Ketchup Good: 0

Ketchup Bad: 1

Keep them coming! 

Is Ketchup good and Catchup bad? Or vice versa? And is it (whichever spelling) destined to return as a vegetable under the Trump administration?

I think Catsup is terrible, but Ketchup is great! 

And you never know what vegetables are going to return... 

It is the best reason to eat french fries.

Ketchup Good: 1

Ketchup Bad: 1

(I probably shouldn't have stated my opinion on ketchup, which will skew the poll, but I just wanted to let you all know I was on the right side of this!)

Yes. In every possible way.

Ketchup Good: 2

Ketchup Bad: 1

Bad unless your fries are lagging behind.

Ketchup Bad: 2

Ketchup Good: 2

Gee, this is tense!

On fries: good. On steak: bad.

Well, you'll get no argument from me!

that they embrace cheek to cheek to focus before each skate doesn't help dampen the rumors. Virtue has said Scott is her best friend, and their relationship is "complicated" which I take to mean they have been romantically involved but may not be now.

Hey, maybe THEY are why facebook included that confusing status! 

Though I don't understand people who use anything else but Heinz.

Ketchup Good: 3

Ketchup Bad: 2

I like it on scrambled eggs. No judging.

Ronald Reagan, welcome to the chat! 

Ketchup Good: 4

Ketchup Bad: 2

Hm, maybe we are also inadvertently answering the question of how many people take part in this chat!

Now that people are more familiar with the sport of curling, can we please introduce a favorite Swedish term of mine into our vernacular? We are all familiar with "helicopter parents," who hover over their children and micromanage their lives. In Sweden, they talk about a related parental phenomenon, "curling parents," who scurry ahead to smooth the path so their children won't experience any bumps in the road.

Ha, now that I know curling, this phrases makes sense, but if I'd heard "curling parents" out of context, I would have assumed maybe parents who forced their children into rollers and papers and not understood the parenting style being conveyed at all. 

definitely good, especially on hamburgers and fries. Keep it off steak however -looking at you Mr. President!

Ketchup Good: 5

Ketchup Bad: 2

No Ketchup On Steak: Also 2

One of your colleagues addressed this very issue. It does seem a bit unfair to them - if you are going to claim ice dancing is a sport, who cares if it is performed with smoldering passion or just technical brilliance and nice choreography?

Oh, perfect! 

Alternatively, we could try for separate categories for Romantic Ice Dancing and Platonic Ice Dancing. 

. . . by informing everyone that in Missouri, hamburgers with ketchup are known as "Yankeeburgers"?

Ha, that sounds like shade. 

It can be good as an ingredient in things like meatloaf, but it has so much sugar it undermines its usefulness for things like fries.

Ketchup Good: 5

Ketchup Bad/Undermined: 3

I had something funny lined up as a response, but I see the vote is too close to call. We can't mess around here. So just put me down for Ketchup Good.


Ketchup Good: 6

Ketchup Bad/Undermined: 3

Shine copper and silverware. (Who shines their copper or silver?) Correct green highlights in bleached hair. Use ketchup to shine your alloy wheels. (Hey kids, I'm not making this up...

Wow! Ketchup is a versatile tool, and I appreciate very much having this quiver in my arrow for when I confront my ketchup-hating friend. 

But only Heinz. All others are an abomination (this where I make an exception for organic products--organic ketchup is the wooooooooorst). Also, the smell of old ketchup (like, that's on a plate that needs to go in the dishwasher) makes me gag.

THIS is entirely correct, in my opinion. Homemade ketchup is actively worse than ketchup from a bottle. Heinz, Hunt's, even generic grocery ketchup is fine by me. But homemade tastes funky, in my experience, and the added effort if someone's cooking it at home or added markup if a fancy chef is preparing it at a restaurant is considerable. 

Good for fries, onion rings and burgers. Scrambled eggs are better with salsa.

Ketchup Good Or Conditionally Good: 7

Ketchup Bad/Undermined: 3

. . . ketchup is good as a vegetable

Ronald Reagan: 1

as a naturalized American of (naturally!) foreign origin, I have to say this; ketchup is an abomination in all respects

Ketchup Good: 7

Ketchup: Abomination: 4

Can you elaborate what makes it abominable? I'm curious!

I live on a street named after this guy. I knew he wasn't among our greatest leaders, but now we read that survey of political scientists ranking him only three spots above the all-time worst (and we know who that is!!!). Buchanan St. is just a few blocks away! And I work on Harrison Street! So, should I start petitioning my city (San Francisco) government?

As someone who once started but failed to finish reading a biography of President Pierce, I can vouch that he was Nathaniel Hawthorne's friend at Bowdoin, which was I guess cool? And was widely regarded as kind of a looker! But that doesn't help his presidency much. Admittedly he had suffered a serious personal blow, but America needed him to be on his game. 

Yes. That is, it has no moral quality in and of itself. Actions are what identify morality, and ketchup has no volition. It goes well with fried eggs and poorly with bananas. But it cannot choose either.

This is so true. I'm dissolving the poll. You have spoken the truth and no more information is required, although if more people vote I will say at the end of the chat what the total was. 

Also, this should be on every bottle of ketchup. 

And then sit back with popcorn as the allegations of cheating burgeon. "They said they were Romantic but *I* don't see any spark there. Make them switch to Platonic!"

think of the COMMENTARY!!

I don't, but I do polish mine.

Oh no, is this another beer/ale debate? 

Supposedly Cottage Cheese with Catchup (surely he use the "c" version for alliterative purposes). So invalid vote.

Wow, that breakfast sounds as appealing as the man who ate it.

Tomato catsup is fine on french fries but mayo is better (ask the Belgians). Also, catsup wasn't just tomato; old Heinz catalogs list things like mushroom catsup and walnut catsup. Just wanted to ketchup you on the historical background ...


Was it like the current Abominable New Diet Cokes With Bizarre Flavors, where coke is still the underlying thing, or was it an entirely different substance? 

after all, it's full of high-fructose corn syrup, so it's two vegetables in one.

I don't care if they're in love. As long as they're doing it.

Maybe we'd better add a third category... 

You can put ketchup in a cup, add hot water, stir, and voila, Tomato Soup. (Wasn't this in Midnight Cowboy?"

I watched Midnight Cowboy relatively recently! I have no recollection of this happening specifically, but it very much seems like the sort of thing that might have happened! Man, there was so much Acting in that movie. 

I believe this ketchup question is the product of a Russian troll farm, trying to sow discord and division among Americans.


We, I mean they, are just exploiting them. 

it tastes nothing like tomatoes, from which it is allegedly made; it is sweet, which no self-respecting condiment should be; its mouthfeel is unpleasant; in short, it is nasty

All right, you raise some interesting points. But as a substance whose origin you have forgotten or paid no heed to, into which it is possible to dip a french fry, I would argue that it possesses at least SOME merit.

Not the OP, but I agree about its abominbleness (abominability?) -- it's mostly sugar. My tongue recoils from it. I'm a mustard-all-the-way gal. So add my vote to Abomination.

Oh. Oops! (casts a tentative "yes" vote for ketchup on french fries and Beyond Meat Beyond Burgers only.)

I'll dip my fries in chocolate shakes, thank you.

Since Weingarten has canceled today, I am heartened that you are giving the crossword nerds of the world a forum. They certainly aren't going to bother Gene Robinson.

I bet that there's a crossword nerd lurking inside Gene Robinson! But I'm glad to be the forum!

Such as they sell in Kennett Square, PA, is a good vegetarian substitute for Worcestershire sauce -- dark and intense. Walnut catsup was also popular in the 19th century. Tomato ketchup is actually a recent abomination.

"The hero of many a well-fought bottle," as his enemies said at the time. Also, he had to contend with his wife, who went a little nuts after their remaining child died and locked herself in her White House bedroom for the rest of his term.

Yeah. You feel awful for him and his spouse as people, but insofar as he was supposed to be leading the country during this high-stakes time, you cannot help wishing he had done a bit better. 

I dunno. It might turn into an Oscars situation, where everyone can plainly see a couple is Romantic but they are entering themselves in Platonic because the competition is easier.

No, we will ensure that this is a disqualifying offense! We will not let any of this Golden-Globes-style Musical or Comedy Nonsense stand. 

I have seen several 18th century recipes for the original version of ketchup, which was made not with tomatoes but with mushrooms. That might be interesting. I vote no on ketchup as being good. But then again I am against virtually all condiments--mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup. I see them as attempts to raise substandard ingredients in a sandwich to the level of mediocrity. Some condiments are fine, though, if they are carefully paired with the dish they are squirted on. And there's always chow-chow.

I want to try this weird mushroom ketchup! Apparently there's a youtube channel where we can watch this happen?

I refuse to vote. Can't we all just get a foot-long?

No, no, I relish this controversy!

I think it's one of those "traditional usage" things. You shine shoes, you polish furniture and metalware.

You raise vegetables, you rear children! 

I love ketchup but it makes the top of my head sweat. But bananas sometimes make my mouth itchy...

Are you... all right?

that was brought back to Europe and the U.S., although I think only we and the Brits took it up seriously. It was a way of using up leftover food that wouldn't keep, the way you make jam from an excess of fruit. Tomato ketchup is a latecomer.

if you just use vinegar? Or vinegar with sugar dissolved in it? I don't see what the tomato adds to the cleaning. Oh, like ketchup, but prefer Trader Joe's organic (and I don't buy organic on much of anything, they just don't have regular). Also, ketchup as a vegetable is slightly less absurd when you remember that at the time, schools were required to use up USDA surplus and they often made the ketchup by putting less water than recommended in the tomato soup powder. So it was sort of like super concentrated tomato soup. Not justifying, just explaining.

My favorite polishing technique is to drop silver into a container with water, salt and aluminum foil.

I'm adding you to the plus column on ketchup! 

This is a whole farrago of fun facts! 

You think this discussion is bad, don't even start on BBQ sauce. )Or is it barbecue or barbecue?) You have two versions in the Carolina, white sauce in Alabama, Kansas City, Memphis, etc.

Okay, sounds like we have a place for a chatter meetup...

is the little, pleated, white containers--"souffle cups" you can squirt it into. I used to play with these in restaurants when I was a little kid. They seemed so appealing and frail, like the newborn kittens of the world of containers.

I love those little containers! I had no idea they were called souffle cups!

And you describe them so beautifully! 

So, Alexandra, are you here, "for 'em"?

Booooo (yes)

A weasel walks into a bar. The bartender says "I've only seen a weasel in here once before! Do you know who he was?" "Pop," goes the weasel.

Full circle! 

I feel like I ought to end the chat here, just for symmetry purposes. 

Let me go tally up all the ketchup votes and report back!

No, no, no, the varieties of barbecue sauce are not a source of division. All varieties of sauce are good, while some are better. They are a symbol of American diversity.

Born and raised in MO—lived there until 34 y.o. Hardly ever heard the word yankee never heard it with regard to food.

Never Catsup, BTW. Ketchup + Horseradish - YES Ketchup on Meatloaf - YES Ketchup on anything else - NO

This Kat votes for the Ket-chup... sorry.

Well, looks like our final tally is 9-7, pro-ketchup! Good news, we have discovered that... sixteen people participate in this chat and seven of them disagree with me about ketchup! 

See you next week for our last chat of February, and in the interim on the blog ( or you can find me on twitter (@petridishes)! 

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Alexandra Petri
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