When you are eating french fries and you reach for a condiment to dip them in, do you reach for the catsup or the ketchup? We are dipping into the difference.

Catchup vs Ketchup

Yesterday, I wrote about the World's Largest Catsup Bottle located in Southern Illinois. (There's even a festival to celebrate it!) When I shared my article with friends, Melissa Awesome commented saying that she didn't "understand the difference between catsup and ketchup." Our co-worker Ryan O'Brian jokingly replied,

The only difference is there's a right way to spell it like the Lord intended. Then there's catsup.

Clearly, we Indiana folks are used to spelling it ketchup. Of course, my ADHD brain took this as a challenge, and I fell into a catsup ketchup rabbit hole.

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What's In a Name

As it turns out, there is no real difference between catsup and ketchup. However, catsup was the spelling used up until the 1800s. It was in 1876 that the H. J. Heinz Company located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania gained popularity for its commercially bottled ketchup, and while certainly not the inventors of the condiment, the Heinz company was the first to gain commercial success with the product. It was around this time that Heinz rebranded from the more traditional spelling catsup to what most of us are familiar with - ketchup.

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

It Hasn't Always Been a Tomato-based Condiment

Incidentally, while catsup and ketchup are both spellings for the same tangy, sweet red condiment that we enjoy on everything from burgers, hotdogs, french fries, and even eggs, it hasn't always been a tomato-based sauce. According to Business Insider, it was originally a fish sauce made with soy sauce.

It originated as a thin soy sauce made from fermented fish most likely from a region called Tonkin, or in what we call Vietnam today. It was common throughout Southeast Asia in the 17th century. Ketchup was called kêtsiap, a Chinese word from the Amoy dialect that translates to "brine of pickled fish."

Photo by Fernando Andrade on Unsplash

More About Ketchup

According to TheKitchenCommunity.org, ketchup is found in 97% of homes in America. There are 5 basic flavor experiences with the condiment as it combines both sweet and sour with bitter, salty, and even savory notes. There is no doubt that among Americans, it is one of our favorite and most versatile condiments - regardless of the spelling.

LOOK: 20 American foods that raise eyebrows outside of the US

Stacker compiled a list of 20 unusual and uniquely American foods that might raise eyebrows outside the U.S.


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