March 3, 2013

Ketchup a Little household favorite


Henry J. Heinz founded his company in 1869 and began making tomato ketchup in 1876 in Pennsylvania. Quick! What is the Heinz logo? Can you draw it? You’ve seen it thousands of times. Answer: the keystone, as in the keystone state. Look at your container. Think of a stone arch you might have seen with the keystone at the top.

Our grandson Chad visited last week and asked if I knew how the phrase “57 varieties” got started in 1896. Simple. Heinz just liked the sound of it and grabbed it out of the air. It has never had any special numerical significance with the company, which produces many thousands of products.

Chad also mentioned that if you have trouble getting ketchup out of a Heinz glass bottle, you turn it upside down and tap on the “57” on the side of the neck with the middle and index fingers. It has some nebulous scientific explanation involving viscosity and “shearing force” that my “Little” brain fails to fathom. Now, he tells me, after I smashed the heel of my hand on the bottom for years or inserted a table knife in the neck to get the flow started.

It took me awhile to get used to the upside-down plastic ketchup bottles, but I like it when I can simply squeeze the container to cover my eggs. I also liked it when they made the opening in the neck much wider on the bottles. That also helped with the flow.

How many cooks and connoisseurs can tell me of the ingredients without looking at the label? For most ketchup, it’s tomato (of course), along with vinegar, sweetener, onion, salt, cloves, other spices and cinnamon (yes, cinnamon). Some also include celery and other vegetables, thus the slight differences in taste.

Different things are added and subtracted by Heinz in various countries, such as India, where one variety excludes onion and garlic for cultural or religious reasons. Remember in 2000 when they made ketchup in various colors here in America? That didn’t last long.

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