"Pure Ketchup: A History of America's National...

Editor's Choice

April 22, 2001|By Michael Pakenham

"Pure Ketchup: A History of America's National Condiment," by Andrew F. Smith (Smithsonian Institution Press, 242 pages, $16.95).

Nobody is sure where it came from - 18th century France and ancient Greece and the Gulf of Tonkin are among the speculations. But everybody knows that for many Americans it improves the edibility of almost anything. I know people whose behavior makes it clear they believe French fried potatoes were invented as a condiment to augment ketchup, a main dish. This history of the stuff is scholarly but never stuffy, full of delights. It includes a rich lot of appendices -- an 8-page bibliography, exhaustive lists of historical, recent and current commercial ketchups, based on tomatoes and otherwise, and 45 pages of historic ketchup recipes. (And, no, there is no authority on earth that can decree whether the correct spelling is ketchup, catchup or catsup.)

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