What do domestic households and fast food chains have in common? They both are likely to be thrown out of order without ketchup in their refrigerators. The United States makes billions off flavored tomato puree! A condiment that’s inseparable from the fridge, ketchup is such an integral part of our everyday meals that it is next to impossible to imagine some of our favorite foods without it.
Rewinding time to the original “koe-cheup”
Ketchup has come a very long way from what it used to be, that is, simple fish sauce in China. It was called “ge-thcup” or “koe-cheup” and is a whopping two millennia old. Was it a secret recipe? No! It was just fish insides ground with soybeans, which was a great combination since it didn’t go bad when the men were at sea. It was very popular with the sailors.
The pungent sauce made its way westwards through the Malay Peninsula and Singapore in the 18th century, which was then colonized by the English. It was locally known as “kecap”, and was an extraordinary addition to the usually bland British cuisine. The British cuisine had a lot of fun experimenting with the base of this fantastic condiment. They switched fish as the base with anchovies, pickled walnuts, mushrooms and even plums and peaches. They chucked in all the spices that reached their hand. The previously known kecap was redefined by the swapping of the regular ingredients with whatever was leftover in the English kitchens. Even Jane Austen had it bad for mushroom ketchup!
The USA finally gives ketchup a proper shape
Why didn’t the English think of something as basic and easily available as tomatoes? Apparently, a sour incident in the 1500s left the British with the belief that tomatoes were poisonous in nature.
James Mease was the first person to pen down the very first tomato ketchup recipe in 1812, and referred to the tomato as the “love apple”. The tomato ketchup was officially branded 25 years later by Henry John Heinz, father of--yep you got it right--Heinz, the world’s very first ketchup company. Henry Heinz initially started making tomato ketchup using his mother’s recipe to sell horseradish. Tomato ketchup had travelled on the grapevine and had risen to a laudable level back then, and was popularly known as “catsup”. Heinz started bottling his tomato catsup, found a solution that gave it an almost indefinite shelf life, and changed it to “ketchup” in the rebranding process.
Since it was an American who was the first to put a label on tomato ketchup, from there on, it was known to the world and the posterity as an American creation. The red, sweet, slightly tangy and exceedingly addictive sauce took very less time to flow through the continents in now vintage glass bottles with a white Heinz label on them.