Fight the power cream of tomato soup

We twenty-first-century Americans are all, whether we like it or not, products of a certain amount of marketing. If we grew up with television, or even with magazines, certain notions of what we ought to eat and when are embedded in our brains, and half of them were invented out of whole cloth by Madison Avenue.

So, for example: it got cold this week, I left the windows open all night, and by lunchtime Monday the house was still cooler inside than most people would heat it in the winter — and felt even cooler than that from the shock of the sudden temperature change. And I felt strongly that I simply must have a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of cream of tomato soup. Continue reading “Fight the power cream of tomato soup”

Gilded Age tomato ketchup

For a few summers several years ago I made ketchup from half-bushel boxes of paste tomatoes, using a recipe from an old issue of Fine Cooking. The ketchup had good flavor, but it was a little too reminiscent of something Italian, with lots of bottom notes from charred onion and the faint pizza-aroma of oregano. We liked it but never used up a batch. The problem was that it substituted for industrial ketchup in only a few of its uses. It made a good topping for burgers and dipping for fries, but as a base for cocktail sauce it was terrible. Industrial ketchup essentially has no aroma; it’s pure mouth-taste — sweet, sour, salt, and umami. To emulate that blend at home would be a waste of time and money; homemade ketchup ought to have flavor. But making ketchup flavorful makes it something entirely different.

I decided to give homemade ketchup another try this summer, and this time, I went back to the nineteenth century for inspiration. Continue reading “Gilded Age tomato ketchup”