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How Americans Ruined What Was Once Ketchup


I’ve been moving all day so I don’t have anything useful to say. Which is a good time to talk about ketchup. As commenters have noted in previous iterations of this obsession of mine, ketchup used to be something very different and mostly looks like it was pretty good. And then Americans ruined it because we ruin everything from other culture’s food ways.

In 1869, the H.J. Heinz Company was formed and began selling horseradish. In 1876, the company started selling its first tomato ketchup products, and in 1882, company founder Henry J. Heinz started to patent the company’s glass ketchup bottles. With its long glass neck and white twist-off cap, the bottle is an icon in the condiment world yet notoriously difficult to extract ketchup from once it’s anything less than full. Perhaps you’ve never noticed that these bottles are labeled “tomato ketchup,” a signifier that means little to us but which distinguished the product from other ketchups still being made in American homes. Heinz also introduced a higher sugar content to the recipe in order to better preserve it. Gradually, ketchup lost some of its bolder flavors and began taking on that sweet quality we’re accustomed to today.

So the shittiness of ketchup is actually Heinz’s fault. This is good to know. Almost makes me glad that Bush beat Kerry in 2004.

Also glad to know this:

It’s a distant relative of the fish sauces that sparked it, but Southeast Asia’s etymological influence remains. In a company statement from Heinz to China Daily in 2013, the ketchup giant acknowledged the Chinese roots of the word. The statement also noted that Henry Heinz chose to spell the product as “ketchup” in order to stand out among competitors that spelled it “catsup.” While it’s sometimes assumed that the “ketchup” and “catsup” spellings vary regionally, they were used interchangeably during ketchup’s rise in the West, along with more variations including “catchup,” all reflecting Western attempts to spell out the early Hokkien words in the English alphabet.

Monty Burns was confused about this in 1882 and is still confused today.

In conclusion, unless you are 10, don’t put ketchup on your hot dog at the very least. This article asks an interesting question:

Should you be arrested for sullying a hot dog with sugar sauce? That’s up to the states.

I would make this a federal crime.

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