Culinary Sleuth

No Matter How You Spell It,
It's America's Favorite Condiment...

Everything You Always Wanted to Know
About Ketchup (Catsup)

by Lynn Kerrigan


We slather it on hamburgers, hotdogs, meatloaf and scrambled eggs, oblivious to its importance in our lives. Though ketchup is used year round, in summer its sales soar as backyard grills heat up. Historically, it's been America's most widely used condiment—now found in 97% of all kitchens—a showing matched only by salt, pepper, sugar, and most recently, salsa.


Ketchup History

Ketchup or Catsup? Indonesian and Asian culture invented what we know today as ketchup. The spicy, pickled fish sauce made of anchovies, walnuts, mushrooms and kidney beans, dating back thousands of years was called ke-tsiap or kecap and was popular in 17th-century China. British seamen brought ke-tsiap home with them where the name was changed to catchup and then finally ketchup. It wasn't until the late 1700s though that canny New Englanders added tomatoes to the blend.

Henry J. Heinz began making ketchup in 1876 but he was neither the inventor nor the first to bottle it. His recipe remains the same to this day.


Ketchup or Catsup?

When Heinz introduced commercial ketchup to American kitchens it became so popular that other manufacturers rushed to catch-up to the ketchup craze. Soon there were Ketchup, Catsup, Catchup, Katsup, Catsip, Cotsup, Kotchup, Kitsip, Catsoup, Katshoup, Katsock, Cackchop, Cornchop, Cotpock, Kotpock, Kutpuck, Kutchpuck and Cutchpuck. All were tomato based and bottled and vied to become a household word. Only 3 major brands remained to steal the spotlight...Heinz Ketchup, Del Monte Catsup, and Hunts, who could not decide on a spelling and bottled under the names Hunts Catsup (east of the Mississippi), Hunts Ketchup (west of the Mississippi), and Hunts Tomato Cornchops (in Iowa only). In the 1980's ketchup was declared a vegetable by the government for school lunch menus. Suddenly Del Monte's Catsup, because of its spelling, was not on the approved list. Shortly afterward Del Monte changed the product's name to Del Monte Ketchup. So ketchup it is.


Secret Lives of Ketchup Lovers

If you want to learn the more about a person, look no further than how they pour their ketchup. From dippers and squirters, to sprinklers and smotherers, psychologist Donna Dawson has identified seven "sauciological" types.

Those who dunk into a well of ketchup are methodical and trustworthy. But they may also be control freaks who are afraid of change. Ambitious people splodge their sauce in the middle of their food. Creative types squirt and swirl their sauce in thin lines. But deep down they are impatient and do not tolerate fools or time wasting. Those who dot their ketchup are friendly, but live conservatively and dream of adventure holidays. Smotherers are the life and soul of the party, while artists who draw faces and words on their food have an easy-going approach to life. And gourmets who keep ketchup in a cruet appear charming, but deep down may be snobbish social charmers.


Ketchup as Health Food?

When HJ Heinz Co. began advertising the health benefits of consuming ketchup, the scientific world roared. Their campaign was a result of several epidemiological studies that found frequent consumption of cooked tomato products is associated with decreased risk of cancer. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a carotenoid that functions as an antioxidant and gives the red color to tomatoes, watermelon, and red grapefruit. "Based on our findings and other research showing lycopene can be an excellent antioxidant, we recommend that people eat tomato based cooked foods," said Dr Lenore Kohlmeier, professor of nutrition and epidemology at the University of North Carolina. Lycopene is better absorbed from cooked tomato products that contain fat, since carotenoids are fat-soluble. But, adding ketchup to hamburgers and French fries will not make them into health foods. Realistically, the typical serving size of ketchup is only a fraction of the amount of tomato sauce on pasta—so there's not enough lycopene to make much difference.


Ketchup Fiascoes

Del Monte's jingle "Even Cats like our Catsup!" drew a lawsuit from one customer who overfed it to her cat causing it to have stomach problems and hair with an unnatural red-orange glow. It ended after weeks of litigation with a million-dollar settlement and two years of free hair dying for the cat.

Heinz trying to play up their spelling and new plastic bottle was ridiculed by English teachers everywhere for their promotion "You don't need to 'ketch' it when it drops!" forcing Heinz to make huge donations to the "Erase Illiteracy in America" program.

Hunts finally dropped the name "Tomato Cornchops" from their ketchup line when their mascot and product promoter, Cornchoppy, overindulged on cider at the State Fair and goosed the governor's wife during apple pie judging, bringing disastrous press.

[Some of the above Ketchup information was culled off a joke page. Can you spot the blatant nonsense? Visit Suzanne Weber's web site at for the full story and other tasty treats.]


Interesting Facts about Ketchup


Fun Ketchup Web Sites (1999)

Lycopene Web Site
Sponsored by Heinz. Features recipes and scientific abstracts.

Planet Ketchup
Recipes, FAQs and more. Great fun.

Homemade Ketchup Recipes Online


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Copyright © 1998-2001, Lynn Kerrigan. No portion of this article may be reproduced for publication without express, written permission of the author.


This page created July 1999

Modified February 2007