The ketchup tree

We crave embellishment. The lace on a dress. The cornice where the wall meets the ceiling. The violins swelling as the most memorable line of the movie is uttered.

Pork belly with flash pickled peaches

Pork belly with flash pickled peaches from Lupa

The same remains true for the architecture of a meal. Would that fish and rice stand solely as nourishment, we’d have no use for tartar sauce or soy. Our hot dogs and hamburgers would lie plain. And we’d savor that protein tidal wave from the Summer grill un-aided by condiments.

And yet our hands reach for the bottle of Heinz. Because nothing taste like deliciousness than something smothered in ketchup.

The crazy part of ketchup is the lurid history. The original edition is nothing more than the fish sauce you’d find on the counters of Vietnamese restaurants today.

Until someone overlooked rumor and dove headlong into tomatoes. They are not the twin of the poisonous nightshade that our European relatives so feared.

In turn, the recipe evolved to what we know of today. Built on the muscle and might of stewed tomatoes, spices, garlic and a zap of vinegar.

But what of tomorrow? What does the future hold?

Mario Batali knows. Tom Douglas knows. Same with Harold Marmulstein and Dominique Labeaud.

Pork steak with pears and sweet potato mash courtesy of the Salty Sow

Pork steak with pears and sweet potato mash courtesy of the Salty Sow

When it comes to dressing pork, a new kind of ketchup is needed.

At Lupa, Mario Batali spins expectations as easily as a ballerina spins in a tutu. Instead of leaving pork belly unadorned, Chef Batali dresses it with flash pickled peaches and grilled pearl onions. The rich swine is both smoothed and electrified by the state fruit of Georgia. An Italian with Southern charm.

Pork with citrus from 11 Plates

Pork with citrus from 11 Plates

In the hands of Chef Harold Marmulstein from Salty Sow, pork steak finds new definition. Sauteed pears mellow the heat and grit of the grilled meat. Sweet potato mash provide the mattress on which this beauty lies.

Chef Dominique Labeaud of 11 Plates twists citrus onto the boneless chop. Natures own acid caressing flavors of the hunter. Simple and elegant.

From the kitchen of Dahlia’s Lounge, perfectly pink pork loin is blanketed under matchstick apples still crisp from the orchard. Grassy flavors of Italian parsley bring balance to the dish. Small cubes of sweet gelatin add textural dimension. A fruit based side with a low melting point that turns into glycerin on the tongue.

Porkloin with fesh apples from Dahlia's Lounge

Porkloin with fesh apples from Dahlia’s Lounge

All four culinary masters plucking ketchup straight from the tree. Peaches, pears, orange and apples. All four with a sense sweet and tangy to complement cuts of pork.

Yes, the ketchup tree is a family tree. It has parents and it has children. Born from the desire to supercharge umami with fermented fish juice as a sauce.

To it’s variations. Mushrooms-based at first.

Then a celebration of tomatoes. A melody of bright fruit pulp gently agitated by acid. Elevated by clove and garlic.

And now a full fledged shower of fruit-amplified flavor through four wizards of the kitchen.

What’s missing is your contribution to the conversation. How have YOU matured this condiment?

Tell us in the comment lines and we might just pin your leaf on the family tree.

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