March 3, 2013

Ketchup a Little household favorite

Let’s catch up with ketchup. I’ve had a lifelong love affair with it. Splat, it goes on scrambled eggs, potatoes, hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, bologna, hash, Spam and more. I’ve even been known to have a bread, butter and ketchup sandwich.

Is it supposed to be spelled “catsup” or “ketchup”? I recall as a young boy that the label on the bottle read “catsup,” and my mother jokingly referred to “cat soup.” When times were tough, she even made tomato soup out of it.

Never has such a ubiquitous and delicious product left me with such great material for investigation. While you struggle with political ponderings, I spend countless hours researching hundreds of pages about ketchup. For any readers who might have labored over the thought that this column has serious content, I apologize.

I took a Shakespeare course in college and learned that there were many spellings of the bard’s name. I learned more recently from Clyde Rideau Sr. that there are almost as many spellings of his surname. I have found at least 18 spelling variations for ketchup, including the two I’ve mentioned, plus others such as catchpuk, catsip, catchup and the list goes on.

From what I’ve read, the word ketchup could be derived from the name of an ancient Chinese pickled fish sauce called ke-tsiap. Doesn’t sound very appetizing to me. It didn’t even have tomatoes here until the early 1800s because people erroneously thought raw tomatoes were poison. The earliest published reference to catchup I could find was in 1690 with ketchup showing up in 1711. Jonathon Swift spoke of catsup in 1730. Some brands such as Hunt’s still use that spelling, but Heinz calls it ketchup and that seems to be used more often than any other spelling.

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