2021 A to Z: Letter K
National Ketchup Day (June 5)
The Foodbeast website states the average American eats 71 pounds of ketchup annually.
Yes, most of us know about Heinz ketchup, and have containers of it in the fridge or the pantry. But, there were many other weird historical ketchup recipes in the past, from oyster catsup, to walnut ketchup, to white and even cucumber ketchup.
Ketchup’s predecessor was known as ke-tchup, kôechiap or kê-tsiap in Hokkien Chinese. It referred to a pickled fish brine or sauce from the Fujian province of China and Southeast Asia. The Oxford English Dictionary says the word “catchup” first appeared in print in 1699 in the New Dictionary of the Terms Ancient and Modern of the Canting Crew and was described as “a high East-India Sauce.” (At the time, “East India” referred to South and Southeast Asia.)
NPR explains, “In 1882, company founder Henry J. Heinz began patenting what would become the company’s famous ketchup bottles. By 1908, just over a quarter of a century later, sales of Heinz Ketchup reached $2.5 million, an unprecedented amount for that era. Additionally, according to a company statement given to China Daily earlier this year, Henry Heinz deliberately chose the spelling ‘ketchup’ for his product as a way to stand out from most of his competitors, who preferred the word ‘catsup.'”
You may know Ketchup from such movies as Pulp Fiction, and 1982’s Diner. But did you know that President Nixon told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on December 2, 1969, that his favorite food was cottage cheese and catsup for lunch?
But the big question is: How to get the ketchup out of the glass bottle. (Yes, Heinz put the 57 on the bottle and you can bang a knife on that spot to get it out, but WHY). We’ve all been in a pub or a diner, where you have a glass bottle of ketchup. You turn it upside-down, shake it, hit the bottom, and the ketchup doesn’t come out. Then it all comes out at once! British physicist Helen Czerski in her new book Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life, explains:
It happens because ketchup has got this weird property known as shear thinning. What that means is, it’s really viscous until you force it to move a little bit. When you’re shaking the bottle, the ketchup can’t go anywhere, so it stays thick. Once you hit it hard enough that it has to go somewhere, then it becomes runny, so a whole load of ketchup comes out at once. The trick is to hold the bottle at a slight angle and tap the neck of the bottle, because then you’re making it runny where you need it to be runny. Everything further up the bottle stays nice and thick. Instead of having ketchup splodge everywhere, you can control the amount that comes out.
500 BC: Evidence found of tomato cultivation in Mexico.
1812: First tomato ketchup recipe makes its debut, written by horticulturist James Meade, referencing ketchup from “love apples” as tomatoes are called at the time
In the 1830s: A medical journal claims that tomatoes could aid digestive problems and it is soon marketed as a medicine. [Dr Miles image courtesy of Once Upon A Spice]
1969: Ketchup Packets were created.
How Was Ketchup Invented?