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Ever wonder about ketchup?

When I was very young, ketchup was still spelled in various ways.  Frequently it was catsup; my grandmother, Ellen Church Williamson, pronounced it that way her entire life.  My Uncle Theo Tupper would smirk when he heard that pronunciation and exclaim, happily, "Cat's up.  Where's the cat!"   Other spellings, according to Lynn Kerrigan, were spelled variously "Ketchup, Catsup, Catchup, Katsup, Catsip, Cotsup, Kotchup, Kitsip, Catsoup, Katshoup, Katsock, Cackchop, Cornchop, Cotpock, Kotpock, Kutpuck, Kutchpuck and Cutchpuck".  How would you like to have some of those names on the bottle?  At the bottom of her article are recipe sources for homemade ketchup, if you have an excess of tomatoes and time. 

See another history of ketchup's early origin, if that wasn't enough information already.  

Is ketchup a vegetable?  Of course!  (Or maybe a fruit, come to think about it.)  It contains valuable antioxidants and minerals, and sure beats butter or mayonnaise, health-wise.  

Is it true that the government tried to count it as such in school lunches?  Absolutely!  From an Associated Press article:

"President Reagan's budget crunchers tried to make tofu a meat substitute nearly two decades ago-- at the same time they tried to reclassify ketchup as a vegetable-- but they beat a hasty retreat when the idea became a lightning rod for opponents of his spending cuts."

More recently, however, salsa made the cut.

Is ketchup just a table condiment?  Not entirely.  It's also an ingredient in many recipes.  Check out Spicy Chicken Fricassee, Coney Islands, and a new addition to our recipe files, Mock Dogs.   Don't be embarrassed about adding ketchup to a dish.  It's as much a legitimate seasoning for cooking as mustard or soy sauce.

Should ketchup be refrigerated?  Or can it be left out on the table or lunch counter?  According to Donna Scott, a Food Safety Specialist with the Department of Food Science at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Ithaca, New York:

"Ketchup should be stored in the refrigerator after opening.  Kept chilled, it should be all right for up to six months.  Ketchup keeps better than most foods, partly because of its acidity, but it isn't sufficiently acid to kill bacteria, mold and other microorganisms that may get into the bottle after opening.  Refrigeration doesn't kill the 'bugs' either, but does slow their growth.   She also recommends keeping the lid and mouth of the bottle clean."

You've heard jokes about a gourmet-restaurant patron who asks for ketchup, whereupon the chef comes running out to threaten him with a cleaver.    Should you be timid or embarrassed to ask for ketchup in a restaurant?  Not at all.  Just taste the food first; maybe you'll like it without added condiments.   If not, it's your taste buds, right?  Hey, pass the ketchup!

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