[Sca-cooks] Roman Ketchup Revised

Terry Decker t.d.decker at att.net
Fri Sep 10 14:02:55 PDT 2010

> Myapologies, here is a better version-I hope- of the article/abstract.
> http://www.sagnlandet.dk/GARUM-THE-KETCHUP-FOR-THE-ROMANS.1041.0.html
> It is Garum aka Ketchup. Which from the abstract sounds like a fish sauce.
> My question then is how did the terminology or word "ketchup" become used 
> for
> the tomato version? It sounds like it started off as a fish sauce of 
> sorts.
> Aelina

What you are asking for is a specific point in the evolution of the usage of 
the word ketchup for which there is no precise answer.  What we do know is:

1.  The word appears to derive from the Malay "kechap" (probably derived 
from Chinese) which commonly referred to fish sauce.  Wikipedia errors by 
assuming that kechap originates at the same time as the introduction of the 
word into English and by assuming that the derivation of the Malay from 
Chinese is proven rather than probable.

2.  Ketchup first appears in English in 1690.  The word and the sauce were 
likely introduced by sailors who had developed a taste for the sauce when in 
SE Asia.  Katsup and catsup, catchup and ketsup are all variant spellings 
that are roughly contemporaneous.

3.  Ketchup became generically applied to vinegar based sauces in the 18th 
Century.  Tomato ketchup is a vinegar based sauce.

4.  A recipe for tomato ketchup appears in The Virginia Housewife of 1824. 
There is supposed to be several other earlier tomato ketchup recipes dating 
as early as 1801.  The first known commercial tomato ketchup appeared in 

5.  Somewhere between the early 19th Century and some time in the 20th 
Century we became conditioned to think of ketchup as meaning tomato ketchup 
as other forms of ketchup were set aside.  However, most bottles of ketchup 
still carry the label "Tomato Ketchup," referencing a specific usage rather 
than a generic one.  We might be able to produce a more precise date if we 
tracked the elimination of the recipes other than those for tomato ketchup.

6.  There is no direct link between garum and ketchup other than they are 
both ubiquitously used condiments in their own time and place.

If you are interested in garum, might I suggest reading some of our earlier 
discussions at:



> The term ketchup probably derives from the Malay word "kechap" which 
> refers to a
> fish sauce.  The word appears in English in 1690.  In the 18th and 19th 
> Century,
> ketchup was used as a generic reference to a number sauces with the only 
> common
> ingredient being vinegar.  Tomato ketchup is likely a 19th Century 
> creation.
> Garum is a fish sauce, so I would say that the site is using a Danish word 
> that
> translates as "ketchup" but has a meaning closer to that of "kechap."
> Bear

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