Monday, January 13, 2020

Chicagopedia: ketchup

Memphis, by William Eggleston (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
     A newspaper is a universe, or should be. A sky filled with all sorts of stars and planets, comets and asteroids, moons and meteors. Thus, despite being the most rational of men, or trying to be, I don't mind the horoscope, or the comics. I understand that not everything is for me: it's one of my superpowers. 
     Thus I was happy to see the new sports wrapper, even though I don't follow sports, and happier to contribute to it at the end of November.  I love our ongoing series on wall murals—interesting of themselves and a great way to get to know hidden corners of the city. I was happy to contribute to that too, and meet the great Jeff Zimmerman. I'm also glad they're bringing back Chicagopedia, our hand guide to Chicago ways and means through its distinctive use of language. The powers behind it asked if I wanted to contribute anything, and I've done several. This is my favorite so far:

ketchup /ˈkeCHəp/ n.  1. A sauce made primarily of tomatoes, vinegar and corn syrup. 2. A condiment which, when deployed on hot dogs, is considered by some to exclude the user from being a "true Chicagoan," whatever that is, when, in fact it is the concern, and not the usage itself , that is distinguishing as, 3. A code word for Chicago authenticity, visa a vis its non-use on hot dogs, by writers of advertising residing in other cities, recent transplants and others who for reasons unfathomable pay attention to the condiment choices of strangers.


  1. When I was a kid, I put catsup on almost everything, but shuddered with disgust at those who lathered their fried eggs with it. Kipling has an interesting short story about an Indian famine during which some of the English overlords trying to help were astounded that the people in certain sections of the country who were rice eaters would rather die than eat wheat, which they regarded as foul tasting poison.


  2. Ha, that was a good one! I've never understood the ketchup vs. hot dog thing, being one of those weirdos who loves ketchup on his wiener. (And Chicago is my birthplace.) Incidentally, there is a Heinz ketchup in the stores now that contains only sugar as a sweetener; I swear it tastes better, much like the '50s ketchup I remember from my salad days. No corn syrup seems to be a good thing here.


This blog posts comments at the discretion of the proprietor.