I am a ketchup fiend. When I was a kid, I wanted to put it on everything: french fries, beans, cornbread, you name it. I'll even admit to sneaking a little onto my macaroni and cheese as an adult. Yesterday, I started flipping through one of our new non-fiction books, 1,000 Common Delusions and the Real Facts Behind Them and ran across an interesting nugget about my favorite condiment. It seems that good ol' Mom-and-apple pie ketchup didn't start life in the United States. What's that you say?! Treason!
Apparently there are several theories floating around as to where ketchup got its start. According to Delusions, "the word ketchup was introduced to the United States in the 19th century by Chinese immigrants, who referred to a particular condiment as ke-tsiap, which means 'sauce,' although it was made from eggplants, not tomatoes" (209). Hmm... Eggplants you say? I had always thought that they were pretty tasteless. (That's what chefs say about me when they see me applying ketchup to their steaks.) Even though some citations are missing, you can read about the other ketchup theories over at wikipedia.
Need a few more facts to feed your need for ketchup kitsch? How about this one that I gleaned from the Heinz website: Ketchup at Heinz is tested to make sure that it comes out of the bottle at .028 miles per hour. That's about the same speed as the common garden snail! If it comes out any faster, which you know we all try to make it do, it doesn't make the grade.
I also ran across the biggest and best-kept ketchup secret ever. Ever shake and shake and shake and shake, trying to get your ketchup fix? Here's the skinny from the big cheese themselves: "To release ketchup faster from the glass bottle, apply a firm tap to the sweet spot on the neck of the bottle— the '57.' Only 11% of people know this secret. Now you're 'in-the-know.' "
They seem kind of smug about keeping us in the dark about that. Ketchup lovers of the world, revolt! Go home tonight and tap the neck of the bottle, not the bottom, and report back to me! Go, I tell you, go!