10 Mundane Traditions with Strange Origins


Ketchup on Hotdogs

What's more American than ketchup on a hotdog eaten high in a ballpark's stands in summer while singing the national anthem? Nothing, that's what. That this national condiment traces its roots to late 17th-century China shouldn't matter at all, should it? It was in the 1690s that a sauce of pickled fish and spices name koe-chiap gained popularity.

One hundred years later, it had migrated and morphed into an English staple and then an American one. An 1801 cookbook by Sandy Addison called "The Sugar House Cookbook" prints the following recipe:

  1. Get [the tomatoes] quite ripe on a dry day, squeeze them with your hands till reduced to a pulp, then put half a pound of fine salt to one hundred tomatoes, and boil them for two hours.
  2. Stir them to prevent burning.
  3. While hot, press them through a fine sieve with a silver spoon till nought but the skin remains, then add a little mace, three nutmegs, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and pepper to taste.
  4. Boil over a slow fire till quite thick, stir all the time.
  5. Bottle when cold.
  6. One hundred tomatoes will make four or five bottles and keep good for two or three years.