“Three tomatoes are walking down the street – a papa tomato, a mama tomato and a little baby tomato. Baby tomato starts lagging behind. Papa tomato get angry, goes over to Baby tomato and squishes him…..and says ‘Ketchup!”
-Uma Thurman in ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994)
Sweet and tangy, often used as a condiment for the “hot or fried, greasy” dishes and at times, as an add on for dressings, sauces or flavouring for the main course dishes; “ketchup” or “catchup” has evolved into being almost a must in every household. In fact, to flavour the most mundane or for a quick scratch meal; ketchup is the answer. Little wonder then with hoards of “tomato sauce” enthusiasts around, a whole day has been dedicated as National Ketchup Day (June 5th).
Typically made from tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, assorted seasonings and spices; this sauce had initial recipes of egg whites, mushrooms, oysters, mussels, or walnuts, among other ingredients. Some of these ingredients have been modified and labelled under other sauces; such that the term “ketchup” (earlier known as catsup, catchup, red sauce, ketsup) refers to the unmodified tomato ketchup (not the mushroom ketchup). While the specific spices and flavors may vary; most commonly include onions, allspice, coriander, cloves, cumin, garlic, mustard and sometimes celery, cinnamon or ginger.
“You know, you really can’t beat a household commodity – the ketchup bottle on the kitchen table.” Adlai Stevenson
Condiments and sauces have been an accompaniment for main course meals a s well as snacks from the very early days of civilizations. Delving into the origins and roots of “ketchup”, this concoction of the Orient had been passed on to the colonists. The 17th century Chinese cuisine included a concoction of pickled fish and spices; known as kôe-chiap (Amoy dialect) or kê-chiap meaning the brine of pickled fish (like salmon juice) or shellfish. Seen in the Malay States (Malaysia and Singapore) of early 18th century; as kicap or kecap (pronounced “kay-chap”) English colonists had first tasted it. The English settlers had taken it back with them, later to their American colonies. Over time “kecap” had evolved into catchup” or “ketchup”. From an etymological point of view, multiple competing theories offer explanations for the name “ketchup”, yet the most widely believed is the Malay or Chinese origin.
“I mix mayonnaise, ketchup and brandy and a little bit of mustard. This is a heck of a good sauce for seafood.” Jose Andres
Originally and historically, the initial preparations of the English ketchup had mushroom (sometimes even walnuts) rather than tomatoes as primary ingredient(1750 to 1850). While many variations of ketchup were created, the tomato-based version appeared a century later after other types. The early versions had anchovies placing its’ roots to fish-sauce ancestry. The mid-1850s saw anchovies being dropped from the ingredients.
Gather a gallon of fine, red, and full ripe tomatoes; mash them with one pound of salt.
Let them rest for three days, press off the juice, and to each quart add a quarter of a pound of anchovies, two ounces of shallots, and an ounce of ground black pepper.
Boil up together for half an hour, strain through a sieve, and put to it the following spices; a quarter of an ounce of mace, the same of allspice and ginger, half an ounce of nutmeg, a drachm of coriander seed, and half a drachm of cochineal.
Pound all together; let them simmer gently for twenty minutes, and strain through a bag: when cold, bottle it, adding to each bottle a wineglass of brandy. It will keep for seven years. – Recipe for “Tomato Catsup” from 1817
(Source: Wikipedia and Apicius Redivivus: Or, The Cook’s Oracle: Wherein Especially the Art of …)
“I can fry hollandaise, I can fry ketchup, I can fry mustard.” Wylie Dufresne
Besides the primary use as a condiment, add on to the marinade or to the minced mix as well as converting it sauces like brown ( barbeque) sauce, sweet and sour sauce or red remoulade; ketchup has its’ own special uses too.
- Shine copper and silverware with ketchup, with the latter being a very effective cleaning agent. At times, mixing it with Worcestershire Sauce enhances the cleaning effect. Ketchup can be used to clean up the tarnish from the car parts, as well as a great agent to shine up alloy based metals; though it won’t clean up the dirt. The technique would be to first clean and remove the dirt, then use ketchup to add the shine.
- To correct green highlights in bleached hair, ketchup can be used. Besides ketchup acts as a great conditioner, bringing back the natural oils into the hair.
- Last but the most creative use of ketchup is its’ use as fake theatrical blood. Additionally ketchup as well as its’ bottle acts as a great base for food based paints and dyes for “toddler art and paint fun”.
With more than the “food” factor for ketchup, this condiment will continue to remain as an essential part of the pantry and the household, whatever may come. For every food experimenter, getting creative and adding a bit of sweet, sour and tangy flavours to the routine recipes can lead to entertaining and surprising new flavours, combinations as well as artistic renderings ( like Eureka!!).