Written by Samuel Phineas Upham
For more than two centuries, humans have been unable to come to a general consensus on whether you spell it ketchup or catsup. Mustard is ancient, but ketchup is a fairly new occurrence. It came into common lexicon somewhere around the eighteenth century. Back then, it was used to describe a tomato based paste that used vinegar to help increase shelf life.
These early forms of ketchup were flavored with some ingredients that might strike today’s foodies as odd. Anchovies and oysters were common ingredients, as were pickles and walnuts. Lemon seems a little more in line with what we eat today, and there is always mushroom based ketchup for something rich.
American ketchup is very different. For one, it’s tomato-based and sweet. The early versions were not sweet, and they also didn’t include soy. Ketchup’s main purpose was as part of savory dishes, like meat pies. Today they serve a similar purpose
The origin of ketchup was, for a long time, thought to be based in Japan. A sauce similar to ketchup was called “kitjap,” but there were some problems with this theory. According to British at the time, the word may have been either Japanese or Malay. However, even that theory has holes in it because the British were in possession of ketchup long before they held territory in Malay. Catsup may have some origin in the word “caveach,” which was a spiced pickle sauce served with fish.
Though your word processor may tell you otherwise, ketchup is one of the only foods eaten that has no accepted spelling.