Ketchup vs. Catsup

We’ve all done it at some point in our lives. Maybe you were at a restaurant that had an unfamiliar brand. Maybe you were looking in the fridge at a friend’s house. Most likely, you were standing in the condiment aisle at the grocery store. And you asked yourself: what is the difference between ketchup and catsup?


The sauce we know today as ketchup originated in China around 1690. And the original Chinese recipe contained no tomatoes. In fact, it was more like a soy or Worcestershire sauce. The first ketchup recipe in the English language, published in an English cookbook called The Compleat Housewife in 1727, lists vinegar, white wine, shallots, anchovies, cloves, ginger, mace, nutmeg, pepper and lemon peel as primary ingredients.

Things quickly get complicated, however.

This sauce was supposedly known as ketsiap in China. According to some Internet sites, the sauce became popular and made its way to Malaysia, where the recipe was changed slightly and became known under the Malay name kecap. Some Internet sources say that it was the British who found the sauce in China and the Dutch who found it in Malaysia. So the Brits pronounced it “catchup” in imitation of the Chinese, and the Dutch pronounced it “ketch-up” in imitation of the Malaysians. There is evidence for this. In a 1690 book called Dictionary of the Canting Crew, English author Charles Lockyer spells it catchup, while Dutch sources from the same period call it ketjap, supporting the different origin theory. Incidentally, it was Jonathan Swift who almost single-handedly changed the English spelling from catchup to catsup. Why he preferred that spelling is not known.

On the other hand, some Internet sources say that the Dutch weren’t involved in the “ketchup vs. catsup” debate at all. These folks say that the sauce was known as both kôe-chiap and kê-chiap in China, and the resultant confusion comes from different British traders who discovered the sauce in different places under different names.

Still others say that ketchup comes from the French word escaveche, which itself comes from the Spanish escabeche, which comes from the Arabic iskebey. Frankly, I’m not at all convinced. Although the Arabic term does mean “pickling with vinegar” and the Spanish term means “sauce for pickling” (which is how the first ketchups were made), I think anthropologist E.N. Anderson and food historian Karen Hess are reaching. The two claim the word was Anglicized to caveach. But most other food historians think that caveach was a short-term English word which was replaced by the Spanish ceviche, as early recipes for caveach are suspiciously similar to ceviche.

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Beef Rendang

Beef Rendang is a delicious dish from Malaysia. It’s kind of a thick stew, like a curry. But it doesn’t contain any curry powder. If you’re one of those strange people who likes the look and mouthfeel of curry but hates the taste of curry powder, this dish is for you! Beef Rendang also doesn’t require a lot of expensive, hard-to-find ingredients or complicated cooking steps. You should be able to find everything for this dish at any grocery store with a good “international” section!

Beef Rendang

1 knife
1 cutting board
1 food processor
1 peeler (optional)
1 tall pot (see below)


2 lbs. stew beef
2 tbsp of vegetable oil
2 cinnamon sticks
12 cloves
2 bay leaves
One large (19oz.) can coconut milk (600ml is the goal)


6 shallots, peeled and chopped into quarters
2 lemon grass stalks, roughly chopped
2 medium red chilies (see below)
6 garlic cloves peeled
1 two-inch piece of ginger root, peeled and chopped
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsp water

1) Put all the “paste” ingredients into a food processor or blender and process until it becomes a paste. I used four of the small Thai chilies available at my local Asian market, however you’ll probably want to use 2-3 (or more, depending on your taste) red jalapeno peppers. They’re for their red color as much as their taste. If it’s not very “paste like” add water a couple of tablespoons at a time until it comes together (but don’t make it too wet).

2) Heat the oil in a pot, pan or wok until it’s smoking hot (you’re gonna stir-fry, so keep that in mind). You’re probably also going to want to use a tall pot for this, as the dish cooks faster uncovered, but tends to splatter while cooking.

3) Add the cinnamon sticks and cloves and stir fry for 1 minute, or until it becomes aromatic.

4) Add the bay leaves and paste and stir fry for 3 minutes.

5) Add the coconut milk and stir well.

6) Add the meat and stir thoroughly.

7) Bring to a strong simmer and cook for 2½ hours, stirring occasionally.

Serve with rice!

This is actually a neat dish to make – the sauce starts off as a pale milk color, but slowly changes to a nice warm brown color. And you can tell it’s getting done when the sauce really starts to thicken up and the meat starts falling apart.

Easy Turtles!

OK, so I’m probably the last person on earth to hear about this recipe. But a friend of mine made a version of these at a Halloween party and they’re so simple to make and so yummy that I’ve made them several times for parties since. It only takes a few minutes, and they’re just sooooooo good!

Easy Turtles


1 cookie sheet
1 plate
Parchment paper


24 small pretzels
3 bars Rolo candy (24 individual candies)
24 pecan halves

Note: I like Snyder’s Butter Snaps pretzels for this. Not only are they tasty, they’re square-shaped (they look like little window panes or grids). This minimizes the chocolate seeping through. Also, Rolo “bars” (8 pieces wrapped in a single piece of foil) are easier to use than bags of individually-wrapped candies… although it’s surprisingly difficult to find the “bars” here in Charlotte.

1) Preheat oven to 300F.

2) Line a cookie sheet with parchment, then place pretzels on the sheet in a grid.

3) Place one Rolo candy, top side up, on each pretzel.

4) Bake for 3-4 minutes. Candies should retain their original shape, but should be very shiny.

5) Working quickly, remove pretzels from oven and top each one with a pecan half. Be sure to press the pecan down so that the chocolate covers the entire pretzel.

6) Let cool to almost room temperature, then place on plate and store in fridge for 30 minutes to an hour to set.

If you don’t like pecans (and, if so why do you hate America?) or are allergic, you can substitute M&Ms or Hershey’s Kisses for the pecans.

The Perfect Chili

I’ve been making chili for 25 years now. Chili from a can, chili from scratch. Chili with common meats, chili with exotic meats. Mild chili, and chili so hot it’ll take the roof of your mouth off… you name it! And I’m happy to announce that, as of this past Monday, I have perfected my “everyday chili” recipe. Even better, I’m going to share it with you!


1 lb. 80/20 ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
6 oz. Mexican chorizo (approx.; see below)
1 large or 2 medium white onions
1 can Rotel Hot
1 can Ranch Style beans
1 packet Carroll Shelby’s chili mix
Beef base, or beef broth (see below)


1 large pot
1 medium skillet (optional)
1 strainer
1 large spoon
1 bowl
1 small whisk or fork

Lisa and I made tacos a few days before, but instead of using ground beef for my tacos, I used chorizo instead. I put the leftover chorizo in a small (10 oz.) Tupperware container, and it was almost full when I was done. This is where I got the “6 oz. approximately” in the ingredients list. You may add more or less if you wish.

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Shamrock Shakes are a green, minty treat from McDonald’s available in most of March in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. You might not know this, but Shamrock Shakes have an important history. For starters, they were one of the first big seasonal drinks at the national food chains. But, more importantly than that, Shamrock Shakes had a lot to do with the founding of the Ronald McDonald House.

Although Connecticut franchisee Harold Rosen claims to have invented the shake in 1966, McDonald’s official corporate history says the drink was invented in 1970. One way or the other, Shamrock Shakes didn’t become a big thing until 1975. That’s when the daughter of Fred Hill, a tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles football team, was diagnosed with leukemia.

Fred ended up spending a lot of time in hospital waiting rooms, and he noticed several other families doing the same. These folks had traveled long distances to get treatment for their children, but it bothered Fred that costly medical bills prevented mothers and fathers from getting hotel rooms during their stays. It just didn’t seem right to Hill that parents had to camp out for days at a time in waiting rooms, so he asked his teammates to help him raise funds to buy a house for the parents.

When Jim Murray, the Eagles’ general manager, heard about Hill’s cause, he called a friend who worked in McDonald’s PR department. Murray suggested that the fast food giant use the shake as a PR tool for Hill, as St. Patrick’s day was approaching and the shake was green, like the Eagles’ uniforms. Murray’s friend agreed, and by the end of the month enough cash had been raised to buy a four-story house, which became the first Ronald McDonald House. Since then, a portion of the Shamrock Shake sales has been donated to the Ronald McDonald House charity.

Enjoy this 80s-licious Shamrock Shake commercial:

I tried to find a commercial with Uncle O’Grimacey, Grimace’s Irish uncle, but the quality of the videos I found on YouTube was… lacking. So enjoy this picture instead:


The Strange History of Monterey Jack

If there’s two things Americans love, it’s ranch dressing and Monterey Jack cheese.

The story behind ranch dressing is simple and happy: in 1954, a couple named Steve and Gayle Henson opened a resort called Hidden Valley Ranch near Santa Barbara, California. There they served a salad dressing Steve had discovered and improved upon in Alaska. The dressing was such a hit with customers that the Hensons began packaging it, and in 1972 the couple sold their dressing company to Clorox for $8 million (around $47.6 million in 2017 dollars).

The story behind Monterey Jack is much darker.

It all began on June 3, 1770, when the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo was founded in what is now Monterey, California. The Franciscan missionaries began converting the local Indians to Catholicism and teaching them trades relevant to the building and maintenance of the mission, like carpentry, making adobe bricks, farming and animal husbandry. They also began making a type of cheese called queso blanco, which originated in Spain but which many Americans now think of as Mexican in origin.

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Fun Friday!

Here are a few things I’ve stumbled across lately, mostly funny stuff with a couple of “cool” things thrown in just to “keep it balanced”:

– I have a passing interest in stock photography. It stems from when I subscribed to several IT magazines and saw the same hot girl, standing in a server room with her arms crossed and a smile on her face, used in different ads over and and over again. So I was amused to see one site ask why stock photo women laugh when they eat salad, and why black women are so happy to shop. Any guesses?

– Paula Deen gives us her “wisdom” in this recipe for English peas. Don’t want to click the link? The recipe has two ingredients (butter and peas) and I’ll let you figure out the rest of the recipe. More culinary genius from the folks at FN!

– Here is the alleged intro for the Japanese version of 30 Rock:

Looks like an 80s sitcom on CBS, no?

– Speaking of TV, here’s a cool behind-the-scenes look at the CGI used in Boardwalk Empire. Aside from the obvious (but well done) CGI used for backgrounds, the video shows us how they make Richard Harrow into a grotesquely maimed WWI vet.

– The folks at Failblog have a picture of the best anti-shoplifting sign ever:


– Some Charlotte filmmakers are making a documentary about the rise and fall of The Penguin. Check out the teaser:

– And lastly, Android has jumped ahead of iOS in the US smartphone market! Woo-hoo!

Last Night’s Dinner

You know how you sometimes make dinner based solely on what ingredients you have lying around? That was dinner for me last night. I knew that I had rice, eggs, and a couple of hamburger patties… so I threw this together:

loco moco

It’s called loco moco, and it’s a popular dish in Hawaii. You just make a base of white rice, then put one (or more) hamburger patties on top of that. Put one (or more) fried eggs on top of the burger(s), then pour brown gravy over the whole thing.

It ain’t pretty, but it’s amazingly delicious! It would normally be served with a side of Hawaiian macaroni salad, but I haven’t found a good recipe yet. Can anyone help with that?

Turkey Noodle Soup

When you think of “holiday traditions”, it’s easy to think of long-established ones instead of newer ones. When I think of Christmas, for example, one of the first things I think about are sausage balls, a Christmas morning treat my mom has been making as far back as I can remember. But I’m really starting to look forward to one of my newest traditions: turkey noodle soup!


For the past two years, Lisa and I have been tasked with making the turkey for the Wilson family Thanksgiving. Following Alton Brown’s foolproof recipe, I’ve made a delicious bird each time. And since the turkey is “ours”, I get to take home all the leftovers. Last year I was puzzling over what to do with the giant turkey carcass, when I noticed that we had a lot of leftover celery and carrots too. Soup instantly popped in my mind… and it was so good!

It sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. To make your own turkey noodle soup from scratch, all you need is some leftover turkey, some vegetables, a few spices, some spare time, and a little bit of love.

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