• Etymology: Malay kechap fish sauce Ketchup is a seasoned pureed condiment usually made from tomatoes. A variant is catsup (Merriam-Webster) Catsup (source A friend of mine recently asked me where the word "catsup" came from, and, although I knew that I'd known the answer at one time, my mind, as usual, went utterly blank. I then compounded my predicament by protesting, "But I used to know! I even wrote a column about it!" Shaking his head sadly, and muttering something along the lines of "It's really sad when the old mind goes," my friend wandered off. Here, therefore, to prove that I am not yet an utter feeb, is the original column from several years ago. Dear Evan: I wrote an essay for my English class recently in which I mentioned "french fries and ketchup." My teacher changed the spelling to "catsup." I went home and looked in the refrigerator and the bottle says "ketchup." My dictionary lists both as acceptable, but which is more correct? Neither spelling, "catsup" or "ketchup", is more correct than the other. The only difference I know of is that people who strive too hard for correctness invariably seem to prefer "catsup." Perhaps they imagine that there is some connection with "cat's supper," but anyone who has dealt with cats wouldn't dream of trying to feed them ketchup. Human beings, on the other hand, love catsup. Americans eat it, according to a recent article in Vogue, at the rate of three bottles per person per year. But the original ketchup bore little resemblance to what might be called our national sauce. The words "ketchup" and "catsup" both come from the Malay word "kechap," from the Chinese word "ketsiap," a sauce made from fermented fish and brine. Pickled fish sauce may not sound all that appealing on french fries, but the Malay word "kechap" itself really only meant "taste." After the word migrated into English in the 17th century (as "catchup," still an accepted spelling), it was applied to a variety of sauces and condiments. It was only with the importation of the tomato to Europe from its native habitat in South America that what we now know as ketchup was born. Modern ketchup is made of tomato sauce, vinegar, sugar and spices, and not a speck, thank heavens, of pickled fish.
  • I read that ketchup/catsup (variant spellings) comes from Cantonese dialect "ka tsiap" (there are probably other ways to spell those sounds) and means "sauce."
  • Ketchup was originally a fish sauce from the east, China and Malay. When it first came west to Europe, they added nuts and mushrooms to it. But it was probably in the Americas that it became tomato based becasue Amreicans like tomatoes. The first man supposedly to make it was Jonas Yerks in 1837. Heinz started their tomato ketchup in 1876.
  • Nearly everyone likes ketchup, even if what they like to put it on seems odd-Nixon covered his cottage cheese with it, the Japanese eat it on rice, and one ice cream manufacturer allegedly once tried a ketchup ice cream. But how did this condiment, by some estimates owned by 97% of US households, become America's favorite accompaniment to the classic hamburger and fries? In the 1600s Dutch and British seamen brought back a salty pickled fish sauce called 'ketsiap' from China. In this version, it was more related to soy or oyster sauce than the sweet, vinegary substance we call ketchup today. Variations in both the name and the ingredients quickly developed. British alternatives included mushrooms (the favorite), anchovies, oysters, and walnuts. In 1690 the word 'catchup' appeared in print in reference to this sauce, and in 1711 'ketchup'. The first ketchup recipe was printed in 1727 in Elizabeth Smith's The Compleat Housewife, and called for anchovies, shallots, vinegar, white wine, sweet spices (cloves, ginger, mace, nutmeg), pepper, and lemon peel. Eighty-five years later the first tomato ketchup recipe was published in Nova Scotia by American ex-pat James Mease, which he often refers to as 'love apple' ketchup-he attempts to give it more cachet by stating that this variation is influenced by French cooking, although there is no proof of it. Recipes continued to appear periodically, featuring mushrooms in Britain and tomatoes in the United States. A New England Farmer offered it for sale in 1830 in bottles, and priced from 33 to 50 cents. In 1837, Americans selling ketchup in Britain were encouraged to rename it 'tomato chutney' in order to draw attention to the differences between their product and the mushroom ketchup popular in Britain. In addition to the difference in ingredients, the British version also differed in texture, being nearly transparent and very thin in consistency. Ketchup was sold nationwide in the US by 1837 thanks to the hard work of Jonas Yerkes, who sold the product in quart and pint bottles. He used the refuse of tomato canning-skins, cores, green tomatoes, and lots of sugar and vinegar. Lots of other small companies followed suit-by 1900 there were 100 manufacturers of ketchup. The big success came in 1872 when HJ Heinz added ketchup to his line of pickled products and introduced it at the Philadelphia fair. The Heinz formula has not changed since, and has become the standard by which other ketchups are rated.
  • The origin of the American slang word for tomato sauce comes from the Cantonese (Southern Chinese dialect) characters for "tomato" and "sauce". The Cantonese twin characters for "tomato" is pronounced "farn keh" and the Cantonese singular character for "sauce" is pronounced "jup". One important note here, when the Chinese speak of 'tomato sauce' they don't say "farn keh jup". The Chinese abbreviate it by taking only the second character from the characters for 'tomato' and say: "keh jup" as the twin characters for 'tomato sauce'. Hence the Anglicized (and westernized) variant of the twin Chinese characters become "ketchup". For the inquisitive minded, you may wish to approach a Chinese linguist, a historian versed in China or simple walk into a Chinese restaurant of Cantonese cuisine and speak with the chef to confirm this.
  • Some tomato privates were falling back on a hike and the tomato sergeant yelled "ketchup right now"! ;-)
  • There was a Papa tomato, a Momma tomato, and a Baby tomato walking down the street. The Baby tomato started lagging behind and the Papa tomato got angry and stepped on the Baby tomato and said "ketchup." Pulp Fiction rules.
  • John Kerry's freaky wife used to scream it at him and smack him in the forehead in her South African accent when he would fall asleep while ploinking her. Heh heh... Poor John and "his freaky wife in charge of all ketchup." Kathleen Madigan.

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