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  Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Fascinated by food facts

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
During my ever-continuing hunt for information for this column, facts about everyday, taken-for-granted items pop up on a regular basis. Here are a few I found interesting.

Ketchup, as we know it today, originated in the 17th century and was called "ke-tsiap." Over time the name evolved into catchup, then ketchup as New Englanders began adding tomatoes to the recipe, which also changed the color to a rich red.

The most recognized name in American ketchup history is Henry J. Heinz, who began bottling his recipe in 1876. The product was so successful many imitations followed. Because of copyright restrictions, other brands had to be spelled differently. Included are Catsup, Catchup, Katsup, Catsip, Cotsup, Kotchup, Kitsip, Catsoup, Katshoup, Katsock, Cackchop, Comchop, Cotpock, Kotpock, Katpuck, Kutchpack and Catchpuck.

Ketchup is so tasty and nutritious it is included as a vegetable on government approved school lunch menus. Now, I challenge readers to read and repeat the various ketchup names above as fast as possible. Don't lose your false teeth.

How many of you know that "pinto" in pinto beans is a Spanish word meaning "painted." Some pinto bean afficionados claim God paints each bean different. Amazingly, as each bean cooks, it changes into a beautiful red-rust color.

These spotted, painted beans originated from common beans with the Latin name of Phase Ius Vulgaris originating in Peru and scattered all over the world by traders. As a small boy I remember my mother "counting beans." Only after a few years in school did I learn she was not counting but searching for small rocks to cull.

If you believe chili came from Mexico, you are wrong. This "hot as hell's brimstone" recipe is pure Texan and was once preached against as creating "passion" and called "the soup of the devil." All this publicity probably contributed greatly to its popularity.

The truth about the origins of chili can be found in the research by Everrette DeGolyer, a Dallas millionaire who loved chili. He states that chili was first concocted about 1850 by Texas travelers and cowboys who made "chili bricks," which did not spoil in transit and could be easily melted in hot water over a campfire.

Actually, the chili brick is similar to "pemmican" made and carried by Indian travelers and mountain men of old. The overabundance of hot peppers, salt and flavoring helped preserve and keep the product from spoiling. The many camp followers of the early Texas Republic armies made a similar "stew" of goat meat and venison.

Legend connects chili with mostly poor people because the recipe used economical ingredients or "whatever was at hand." Early Texas prisons claim to be the originators of authentic Texas chili as they used the cheapest, toughest, stringiest meat chopped into small pieces and cooked until it was tender and edible. After being released, many prisoners wrote back to get the recipe as it was remembered by all.

One hotly contested question among chili eaters today is ... If you add pinto beans or ketchup to chili, is it still chili? After eating a big helping of chili, I always debate the answer while waiting for my Maalox moment to kick in gear.


Delbert Trew

"It's All Trew"

May 22, 2005 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

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