Mustard was known to the ancients. Ketchup surfaces in the early 18th century. Food historians generally agree the predecessor of our ubiquitous All-American tomato-based condiment may have originated in Southeast Asia. Some believe the English word ‘ketchup’ was borrowed from Chinese, too. How is this possible when tomatoes are a “New World” food? Original recipes for this pungent condiment were flavored with Asian ingredients. When tomatoes were introduced to China (circa 16th century), they were eventually incorporated. 18th and 19th century British and American cookbooks offer dozens of ketchup recipes featuring a wide variety of tangy fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish. By the end of the 19th century, American tomato ketchup, as we know it today, was commercially bottled and widely consumed by a hungry public. In 1981, the USA federal government proposed ketchup be classed as a vegetable to satisfy school lunch nutrition requirements. What is ketchup? “When the term ketchup first entered the English language, at the end of the seventeenth century, it stood for something very different from the bottled tomato sauce of today. At that time tomatoes were an expensive rarity, and the ketchups were long-keeping, often vinegar-based sauces flavoured with mushrooms, anchovies, onions, lemons, oysters, pickled walnuts, etc. They formed the essential ingredients of the proprietary sauces so popular with the Victorians, of which Worcester sauce is virtually the only survival…” —An A to Z of Food and Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 177) Why call it ketchup (catsup)? “The etymological origin of the word ketchup is a matter of confusion. For almost two centuries speculation has raged regarding the origin of the word and what it signifies…Elizabeth David suggests in her Spice, Salt and Aromatics in the English Kitchen that the word ‘derived form caveach, a form of spiced-vinegar pickle in which cooked fish was preserved.’ She announced that the word in different forms manifested itself throughout European cookery…E.N. Anderson believed that ketchup was cognate with the French escaveche, ‘meaning food in sauce.’ Similarly, others have speculated that ketchup was related to the Spanish and Portuguese words escabeche or escaveach, meaning ‘a marinade or sauce for pickling.’… American culinary historian reports, escabeche derived from the Arabic word iskeby and specifically referred to pickling with vinegar. The term was Anglicized to caveach, and it appeared in print almost simultaneously with ketchup in English cookery books. Still others have claimed that the word ketchup originated in East Asia. In 1877 Eneas Dallas speculated that the true Japanese word was kitjap…However, if anything is clear in this etymological confustion, it is that the word kitjap is not of Japanese origin. Concurring in this opinion, the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary suggested that ‘Japanese’ cited by many was possibly an error for ‘Javanese.’ This speculation was based on the presumption that some observers believed that ketchup derived form the Malay language…Culinary historian Alan Davidson…believed that the term specifically derived from the Indonesian word kecap. Owen presumed that retired British colonial servants brought the word back home with them from Malaya. However, ketchup was entrenched in Britain well before the British possessed a colony in Malaya…Indeed, Malay dictionaries claim that ketchup is of Chinese origin…The editors of the Oxford English Dictionary, citing Douglas’s Chinese Dictionary, presented a different Chinese-origins theory, reporting that ketchup really derived from ke-tsiap, a word from the Amoy dialect of Chinese meaning ‘the brine of pickled fish.'” —Pure Ketchup: A History of America’s National Condiment, Andrew F. Smith [University of South Carolina Press:Columbia] 1996 (p. 4-5) [NOTE: We highly recommend Mr. Smith’s book. It is thoroughly researched, historically documented, intelligently presented and a fun read.] What is the correct spelling? “…ketchup is among the few commonly eaten products with no agreed upon spelling. Ketchup, catchup, or catsup continue to be used today, but other similar spellings have been employed for years…Over the past two centuries food commentators have presented cases for particular ‘correct’ spellings of the word…In America, Isaac Riley, editor of the 1818 edition of The Universal Receipt Book, believed that ketchup was the correct spelling. According to Riley, catchup was a vulgarization, and catsup was simply an affectation…Until a few decades ago, catsup was the preferred spelling in many dictionaries. Today ketchup clearly is in the ascendancy, and is the clear choice of lexicographers and manufacturers.” —Pure Ketchup: A History of America’s National Condiment, Andrew F. Smith [University of South Carolina Press:Columbia] 1996 (p. 6) What is American ketchup? “The word ‘ketchup’ conjures up an image of the thick, sweet, tomato-based condiment…Americans did not invent ketchup, which was not thick, sweet, or made from tomatoes…British explorers, colonists, and traders came into contact with the sauce in Southeast Asia, and upon their return to Europe they attempted to duplicate it. As soybeans were not grown in Europe, British cooks used such substitutes as anchovies, mushrooms, walnuts, and oysters. British colonists brought ketchup to North Ameirca, and Americans continued experimenting, using a variety of additional ingredients, including beans and apples. Tomato ketchup may have originated in America. It was widely used throughout the United States in the early nineteenth century, and small quantities of it were first bottled in the 1850s. After the Civil War commercial production of ketchup rapidly increased…tomato ketchup became the most important version…In 1896 the New York Tribune reported that tomato ketchup was America’s national condiment…Up until 1900, ketchup was mainly used as an ingredient for savory pies and sauces, and to enhance the flavor of meat, poultry, and fish. It then became famous as a condiment following the appearance of three major host foods: hamburgers, hot dogs, and french fries.” —Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, Andrew F. Smith [Oxford University Press:New York] 2004, volume 2(p. 5-6) [1747] “To make English catchup. Take the largest flaps of mushrooms, wipe them dry, but don’t peel them, break them to pieces, and salt them very well; let them stand so in an earthen pan for nine days, stirring them once or twice a day, then put then into a jugg close stopp’d set into water over a fire for three hours; then strain it through a sieve, and to every quart of the juice put a pint of strong stale mummy beer, not bitter, a quarter of a pound of anchovies, a quarter of an ounce of mace, the same of cloves, half an ounce of pepper, a race of ginger, half a pound of shalots; then boil them altogether over a slow fire till half the liquor is wastged, keeping the pot close covered; then strain it through a flannel bag. If the anchovies don’t make it salt enough, add a little salt.” —First Catch Your Hare: The Art of Cookery Made Plain & Easy, Hannah Glasse, facsimile 1747 edition [Prospect Books:Devon] 1995 (p. 169) [1824] “Tomata Catsup. Gather a peck of tomatas, pick out the stems, and wash them; put them in the fire without water, sprinkle on a few spoonsful of salt, let them boil steadily an hour, stirring them frequently, strain them through a colander, and then through a sieve; put the liquid on the fire with half a pint of chopped onions, a quarter of an ounce of mace broke into small pieces, and if not sufficiently salty, add a little more, one tablespoonful of whole black pepper, boil all together until just enough to fill two bottles; cork it tight.– Make it in August.” —The Virginia Housewife, Mary Randolph, facsimile 1824 edition with historical notes and commentaries by Karen Hess [University of South Carolina Press:Columbia SC] 1984 (p. 201) [1885] Tomato Catsup Take enough ripe tomatoes to fill a jar, put them in a moderate oven, and bake them until they are thoroughly soft; then strain them through a coarse cloth or sieve, and to every pint of juice put a pint of vinegar, half an ounce of garlic sliced, a quarter of an ounce of salt, and the same of white pepper finely ground. Boil it for one hour, then rub it through a sieve, boil it again to the consistency of cream; when cold, bottle it, put a teaspoonful of sweet oil in each bottle; cork them tight, and keep in a dry place.” —La Cuisine Creole, Lafcadio Hearn

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