Marty Martindale

Everybody knows someone who can’t take the first taste of something new without demanding the ketchup. This red sauce is a   very  strong  habit, one laced with sugar and salt. People eat more than 12-million tons of tomatoes every year in the United States alone. This is quite a contrast from their beginnings in the U.S. when tomatoes were suspect and considered poisonous.

In the 18th and 19th centuries ketchup was a term for any spicy sauce which contained some amount of vinegar and sugar. Original ketchup was not necessarily made from tomatoes but frequently made from mushrooms or fish brine with herbs and spices. In other versions the main ingredient was anchovy, oyster, lobster, walnut, kidney beans, cucumber, cranberry, lemon or grape.

In early colonial America, 1620 – 1763, tomatoes were considered poisonous as they are a member of the night-shade family. They were grown as ornamentals and nick-named “love apples.” By the early 1800s a man named Robert Johnson set out to dispel the poisonous tomato theory, and he ate a basketful in his town square. Once crowds realized he didn’t die from them, these red, expensive gems became a part of most everyone’s diet.

Latter-day ketchups were not always made from tomatoes. Some are prepared from bananas, blueberries, a cumin-chipotle combination and tomatoless ketchup is made from ground, cooked beet root and carrots. Each recipe for these alternative ketchups call for some vinegar, sugar, maybe some chopped onion and several selected herbs and spices. Today’s tomato ketchups are usually made with ripened tomatoes, and basic ingredients are vinegar, sugar, salt, allspice, cloves and cinnamon. Frequently onions, celery and other veggies find their way in. Fussy hot dog consumers argue over ketchup. Officially it’s considered the second most condiment for them with mustard top dog. Of late homemade ketchup is on the upswing as is a challenge to ketchup in the form of Spanish-origin salsas.

The peaceful argument for downright basics of “ketchup” and “catsup,” continues, and it will not be solved here. The word, “catsup” was first recorded in England 1690, by 1711 the form was “ketchup.” It travels more than this, and the word has been battered around in many cultures: Cantonese Chinese, it was ke-tsiap, in others it was “koechiap” or “ketsiap.” In Malaysian it was “kchap,” the Dutch was “ketjap.”

Ketchup has some logistic peculiarities as well. Most of us know it’s useless to pound on the bottom of a ketchup bottle to get the stuff out. The approved, physically-scientific, method is to hold the bottle horizontally to allow a little air down into the bottle, then lightly tape the underside of the neck of the bottle and get some pretty good results. The introduction of ketchup in polyethylene squeeze bottles made it easier to deal with, so has wider-mouthed jars.

The fun just continues with ketchup. The THE WORLD’S LARGEST CATSUP BOTTLE, attracts thousands of visitors each year to Route 159, just south of downtown Collinsville, Illinois. Built in 1949, the 170-ft.-tall water tower was built by W.E. Caldwell Company for the G.S. Suppiger catsup bottling plant. This is a happening place with a Summerfest Birthday Party with racing cars and ketchup adorned tee shirts, posters, post cards and baby rompers.

In 1981, at the urging of President Reagan, Congress ordered the Department of Agriculture to allow federally-financed school lunch programs to classify tomato ketchup as a vegetable!

Core, for years, red ketchup has been the order of the slatherer’s day. However, late in 2001 the H. J. Heinz Company introduced their new, green ketchup designed to dazzle their number one ketchup fans, the kids. Kids love novelty they reasoned. Manufactured to taste no different, only reflect a spinach-tone color, the mere difference in color evoked opinions from adults in particular the new sauce “needed to taste” different, because the color was different.”

The red sauce can work some minor miracles, as well. The book, EXTRAORDINARY USES FOR ORDINARY THINGS, explains how ketchup can color-correct and re-nourish chlorine-weary hair. It also makes copper items shine and keeps silver jewelry sparkling.

Though associated with “junk foods,” ketchup has some merit. It contains no cholesterol, very low in saturated fat and is high in potassium, riboflavin, vitamins A and C. Now in the 21st century, most anything tomato contains beneficial lycopene and is considered a fortification against cancer. What keeps ketchup out of the hands of most health food enthusiasts is its reputation for being very high in sodium and sugar.

Probably more of a habit, other suggested usages:

Use whenever mustard is called for

Add a tablespoon, or so to soups, stews, casseroles, even salad dressings.

Make shrimp red sauce from ketchup, fresh lemon juice and horseradish.

Make a Russian dressing with ketchup, mayonnaise and relish.

Usually a part of homemade barbecue sauce

Add to New England baked beans

Marty Martindale

About Marty Martindale

Foodsite Magazine and Marty aim to help the cooking-challenged avoid dependence on others due to lack of cooking knowhow. We concentrate on quick breakfasts, portable lunches and “good-4-u” night meals. With readily available web translation, the magazine explains separate foods, a little of their history, their nutrition, suggested “go-withs,” serving ideas and links to foodsites with recipes.

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