Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, July 1, 2004


Page 15



Ketchup: a Condiment Evolved From Fish-Based Sauce




What do ketchup and Worcestershire sauce have in common?

Well, both are condiments—that is, something added to a food as a garnshment. Both come in bottles.

But there’s a closer kinship. Both are derived from fish-based sauces from the Orient.

Last week, I recited the background of Worcestershire sauce: concocted in England by two chemists, Lea and Perrins, who were seeking to replicate a recipe for a sauce from India. To this day, a prominent ingredient in the brew is anchovies.

Centuries ago, ketchup came from China. It was not however, made from tomatoes—a fruit existing in the New World and unknown in the East.

An article in the Christian Science Monitor in 2000 recited:

“The word ‘ketchup’ comes from the Siamese word kechiap [or ke-tsiap], a tangy sauce made of pickled fish. It was first prepared in the 1600s and spread through the region. In the 1700s, British sailors took it from Singapore to England. They spelled it ‘ketchup,’ and tried to duplicate it. When they couldn’t, they substituted other ingredients, including ground mushrooms, walnuts, and cucumbers. The earliest recipe for ‘tomato catsup’ didn’t appear until 1792, and in 1841 Charles Dickens wrote about ‘lamb chops breaded with ketchup’ in ‘Barnaby Rudge.’ In 1876, German-American chef and businessman Henry Heinz made the first mass-produced and bottled tomato ketchup.”

“The Compleat Housewife” by Elizabeth Smith, published in 1727, provided a recipe for ketchup which included anchovies, vinegar, white wine, and spices.

In the 19th Century, the term “ketchup” (or “catchup” or other variations) was used by some to refer to any sauce that was made with vinegar. Yet, other versions of the sauce contained no vinegar.

Eliza Leslie’s “Directions for Cooking, in Its Various Branches,” published in Philadelphia in 1840, included lobster catchup (boiled lobster moistened with sherry, pounded into a paste, with a teaspoon of cayenne pepper) and “sea catchup” (made with “a gallon of stale strong beer” and a pound of anchovies, with seasonings, boiled and strained). There was also “anchovy catchup,” “lemon catchup,” oyster catchup,” and “walnut ketchup,” as well as “tomata catchup” and “mushroom catchup.”

 Mushroom ketchup was quite common. Johnson’s dictionary in 1930 defined “catchup” as “a poignant liquor made from boiled mushrooms.” “Mushroom ketchup” is, in fact, still marketed.

Tomato ketchup originated in colonial New England. It was considerably thinner than the sauce which Heinz touted in commercials a couple of decades ago as “slow-pouring” and inducing “anticipation.” Early recipes resembled Worcestershire sauce.

Here’s an 1821 recipe for “Tomata Catsup” published in London in  Accum’s “Culinary Chemistry”:

“Mash a gallon of ripe tomatas; add to it one pound of salt, press out the juice, and to each quart add a quarter of a pound of anchovies, two ounces of eshallots, and an ounce of ground black pepper; simmer the mixture for a quarter of an hour; then strain it through a sieve, and put to it a quarter of an ounce of pounded mace, the same quantity of allspice, ginger, and nutmeg, and a half a drachm of cochineal; let the whole simmer for twenty minutes, and strain it through a bag: when cold, bottle it.”

There was a memorable allusion to Heinz 57 Ketchup in the 1962 movie, “The Manchurian Candidate.” The character of U.S. Senator Iselin was patterned after the controversial solon from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy.

On Feb. 10, 1950, McCarthy had claimed in a speech in Salt Lake City, Utah, that he possessed the names of 57 Communists in the State Department. (The day before, in Wheeling, West Virginia, he set the number at 205.)

In the movie, Iselin (portrayed by James Gregory) proclaimed the presence of 57 Communists in the State Department. This came right after a scene in a restaurant culminating in a close-up on a bottle of Heinz Ketchup.

That brand is not too popular these days with some Republicans. Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.—the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee—is the widow of Heinz heir John Heinz (a United States senator from Pennsylvania at the time he died in a plane crash in 1991). She was left an estimated $1 billion fortune.

In a letter to the editor of the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, a vice president of the H.J. Heinz Co. protested: “As is clear from their public financial disclosures, neither Teresa Heinz Kerry nor Sen. John Kerry holds significant number of shares in the company. No Heinz family members are involved in the management or board or the marketing of any product, including Heinz Ketchup.”

“W Ketchup” is being sold via the Internet. The Web site declares: “You don’t support Democrats. Why should your ketchup?”

Has Kerry’s supposed link to Heinz ketchup boosted sales of major competitors? A spokesperson for Del Monte told me Monday that it “hasn’t had an effect on the sales of our ketchup.”


Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company


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