How Ketchup Got Thick

Ketchup is the crowd-pleaser of condiments—a ubiquitous accessory on dinner tables throughout the United States, and, increasingly, the world. But this kid-friendly classic actually has its roots in a much funkier food: fermented fish sauce! So how did the salty, pungent, amber-colored seasoning that gives Southeast Asian cuisine its characteristic flavor turn into a thick, red sauce typically found atop hamburgers and French fries? It's a saga that involves the fall of the Roman empire, eighteenth-century fish sauce knock-offs made from green walnuts and vinegar, and the marketing genius of one Henry J. Heinz. Listen in now for that story, plus the 1981 ketchup scandal that shook the Reagan White House, in our love song to ketchup's weird backstory and underrated culinary sophistication.