Julie Lyles Carr: Deep Thoughts

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Deep Thoughts

The new treadmill is in the house and I have been doing steady penance for my Halloween candy sins.

I say the new treadmill is in the house. That is technically correct. It is not, however, in the room designated for workout equipment. That room would be at the top of the stairs and around a pesky but attractively angled landing and wall. The old treadmill still occupies the designated treadmill spot. So taking the new treadmill to where it belongs would involve a multi-step, injury-inducing, back-bending reorganization that I am frankly not up for, at the moment.

So the new treadmill is sitting decorously where it landed when we hauled it, gasping, in from the van and decided that the nearest spot where we dragged the beast was the most appropriate.

As in, right in front of the kitchen bar, with a bird's eye view of the kitchen.

Now, as you probably would guess, I think deep thoughts while I run on the treadmill, taking in the view of the kitchen. I think about the most likely suspect for having finger-painted with peanut butter. I wonder about the granite countertops, where the rock started and how it came to be in the house. I realize that someone has chowed through all the oreos...and the graham crackers....and the saltines....and left the wrappers on the counter.

And then there are the more profound questions.

As I ran last night, this was my view...

ketchup 002

Oh, wait...to be more journalistically accurate, my view looked a bit more like this...

ketchup 003

And then I noticed it...

ketchup 004

The lonely ketchup bottle...

ketchup 005

And it begged an important question, one that we don't spend enough time thinking about, a question that should receive more attention and a more direct answer...

What is the deal with 'ketchup' and 'catsup'? Why does Heinz have the market on one spelling and Hunts has the other? What is up with that whole deal? Is it a conspiracy against all crossword puzzle aficionados, an attempt to completely mess up 4 across and 3 down?

And so, because I am always looking out for the public interest, I did a little research for you last night...because I knew the whole ketchup/catsup debacle has been keeping you up nights.

Here is what I found...

"Ketchup was one of the earliest names given to this condiment, so spelled in Charles Lockyer’s book of 1711, An Account of the Trade in India: “Soy comes in Tubbs from Jappan, and the best Ketchup from Tonquin; yet good of both sorts are made and sold very cheap in China”. Nobody seems quite sure where it comes from, and I won’t bore you with a long disquisition concerning the scholarly debate on the matter, which is reflected in the varied origins given in major dictionaries. It’s likely to be from a Chinese dialect, imported into English through Malay. The original was a kind of fish sauce, though the modern Malay and Indonesian version, with the closely related name kecap, is a sweet soy sauce.
Like their Eastern forerunners, Western ketchups were dipping sauces. I’m told the first ketchup recipe appeared in Elizabeth Smith’s book The Compleat Housewife of 1727 and that it included anchovies, shallots, vinegar, white wine, sweet spices (cloves, ginger, mace, nutmeg), pepper and lemon peel. Not a tomato in sight, you will note — tomato ketchup was not introduced until about a century later, in the US, and caught on only slowly. It was more usual to base the condiment on mushrooms, or sometimes walnuts.
The confusion about names started even before Charles Lockyer wrote about it, since there is an entry dated 1690 in the Dictionary of the Canting Crew which gives it as catchup, which is another Anglicisation of the original Eastern term. Catchup was used much more in North America than in Britain: it was still common in the middle years of the nineteenth century, as in a story in Scribner’s Magazine in 1859: “I do not object to take a few slices of cold boiled ham ... with a little mushroom catchup, some Worcester sauce, and a pickle or so”. Indeed, catchup continued to appear in American works for some decades and is still to be found on occasion.
There were lots of other spellings, too, of which catsup is the best known, a modification of catchup. You can blame Jonathan Swift for it if you like, since he used it first in 1730: “And, for our home-bred British cheer, Botargo, catsup, and caveer”. [Caveer is caviar; botargo is a fish-based relish made of the roe of the mullet or tunny.] That form was also once common in the US but is much less so these days, at least on bottle labels: all the big US manufacturers now call their product ketchup.
Simple question: complicated answer!"

This succinct little piece of ketchup history come from Michael Quinion at World Wide Words, a brilliant little playground for all of us word junkies.  I know that I will rest better knowing the full story on the etymology of such an important condiment title.
Wonder what deep thought I'll have today while running off Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.....
Keeping the World Safer, One Pondering at a Time,

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