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Ketchup Revisited

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Building on this, here is some information on ketchup. Glad to see I’m not the only one exploring this key question to 21st century life:

Surely the big question is: when did it get here? To which the big answer is: some time in the early 1700s. It first shows up in an English cookbook in 1727, in Elizabeth Smith’s The Compleat Housewife. One of her recipes calls for “a little ketchup, pepper, salt, and nutmeg, the brains a little boiled and chopped, with half a spoonful of flour”.

Brains? In 1727 it was normal to eat brains.

Ah. I see. But not tomatoes? Not in ketchup, no, because it wasn’t originally made with tomatoes. Back in 1876, when Henry Heinz first marketed his now ubiquitous creation, “tomato ketchup” was just one of many ketchups on the market.

So what’s ketchup doing now? Feeling the squeeze. Sales of Heinz tomato ketchup have fallen 7% over the past year.

Why? Possibly because, after 137 years, we’re getting bored of it. According to the Grocer, the fall in ketchup sales was accompanied by a rise in sales of chilli sauce, mayonnaise, dressings and “other ethnic sauces”.

I’ll say this for our ancestors: their version of ketchup made with brains was no doubt a superior condiment than the sugary-sweet ketchup that pollutes food today.

But you do have to give credit to Americans for increasingly rejecting ketchup in favor of salsa, hot sauce, and other condiments. If we are lucky, you will all continue to shun your neighbors who use ketchup, convince them of their poor taste, and reform them into people who use tasty condiments. We will know we have advanced as a nation when we follow the example of our Belgian comrades and prefer mayo on our fries.

1876 is also not only the year with an election that led to the end of Reconstruction. It’s also the year modern ketchup came on the market. Now that’s a bad year.

…..Also, here’s an interesting history of ketchup, including its non-tomato varieties. Pretty much like most popular histories it talks of Heinz as the one good employer who treated his workers fairly, blah, blah. I don’t know anything about the details of Heinz labor relations, but I do know that if every public historical discussion of how the rich treated their employees were true, we’d never need a union in this country.

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