Hi, my name is Angela, and I am a ketchup-lover. I put ketchup on my hot dogs and, yes, I’m from Chicago. It’s a shock that I haven’t been run out of town by now. Ketchup has been my favorite condiment since I was a kid, which probably speaks to the fact that people negatively associate it as a childish dipping sauce. However, thanks to Ian Lecklitner, a writer at MEL Magazine, today I learned that ketchup has a respectable history.
Like I’ve always thought, ketchup was and is a versatile sauce. Fun fact: before what we know as tomato ketchup came to be, the term “ketchup” meant one ingredient that’s been spiced, whereas “sauce” was the word used for multiple ingredients in the same condiment. Ketchup was originally a fish sauce that people added to lots of different foods like rice, meat, and seafood. This is probably why people continue to make their own variations today.
Taken from Asia, British colonists made their own versions of ketchup for a long time and its popularity was widespread. Not until the 20th century, when people became obsessed with French cuisine and upscale dining, did ketchup start to be viewed as low class. On top of the French obsession, when fast food came on the scene in 1921, White Castle served its affordable little sliders with ketchup on top. This basically solidified ketchup as anything but high brow. No offense to French food, but french fries and ketchup are a classic pairing you can’t beat.
Unsurprisingly, in this lesson on ketchup history it was impossible for Lecklitner to not mention Chicago’s infamous abhorrence of ketchup on hot dogs. Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko once wrote, “No, I won’t condemn anyone for putting ketchup on a hot dog. This is the land of the free. Sure, it would be disgusting and perverted, and they would be shaming themselves and their loved ones. But under our system of government, it is their right to be barbarians.” I wholeheartedly disagree, and this little history lesson has only made me even more ride or die for ketchup.