Sometimes I think about the old part-time job at a grocery store during my college years as a stockboy, many years ago, when I look at the cans of food in my kitchen. We young men cut the tops of the cardboard cases off with box cutters, then printed prices onto the tops of the cans with price stampers loaded with purple-blue ink. When we placed the cans onto the display shelves, we were reminded to “rotate” the merchandise. That is, move the older cans to the front and place the new cans to the rear of the shelves. I still “rotate” my own food cans when I put away my groceries after a shopping trip.
Other times, I’m reminded of fruit cocktail when I see cans of food. I’ve often wondered about this particular mental association. Perhaps it’s because I used to dislike the mixture of fruit chunks packaged in the sweet “syrup”. Whenever it was served as dessert, I only ate the pear chunks and the grapes. The pineapple tasted disgusting, and I rarely ever got the solitary marischino cherry-half from each can. Strangely enough, I’ve developed a taste for canned fruit cocktail during the past few years. Perhaps this is a symptom of old age?
This month, I’m purposely using more canned foods because I’ve been “celebrating” Canned Food Month. Although we often take canned foods for granted, this method of packaging food is a great boon to humanity. Canned Food Month, 2015, is especially noteworthy, because it commemorates the bicentennial of canned food, as we know it.
Like many of our modern concepts, canned food was first developed in Napoleonic France. In 1795, Napoleon Bonaparte offered a reward of 12,000-francs to anybody who could show him a better way to preserve foodstuffs for his armies. Nicolas Appert collected the prize when he discovered that cooking food at high temperatures then placing it in sterilized, vacuum sealed, glass jars greatly extended the viability of food. This same method is still widely used in kitchens around the world. People store home-grown foods for later use. Today we also find glass “cans” or jars of olives, pickles, beets, and some fruits on the shelves of supermarkets.
We usually think of metal or “tin” cylindrical containers when we’re refering to cans. They are produced by the hundreds per minute and are cheap, rugged storage containers. Canned goods are ubiquitous in food stores around the world. The contents are preservative-free and safe to eat. The high processing temperatures, combined with sterile containers allows for longterm storage in most circumstances.
Canned food is an especially good choice when selecting basic foods that can be eaten during emergencies in case of power outages. Frozen and fresh foods are particularly vulnerable to spoilage during extended emergencies. Check over your supply of canned foods to make sure you have plenty if the lights go out for days at a time. This is something to think of when planning for severe weather survival needs. Most canned foods can be served without the need for cooking, too.
Another thoughtful reason to stock up on your favorite canned foods is that you will have a convenient contribution on hand to donate to the local food bank. They appreciate regular food, not the odd-ball or exotic foodstuffs that people sometimes try to get rid of. Consider donating soups and canned vegetables to the charity.
Because this is Canned Food Month, you might find specially priced canned goods on the shelves where you shop. Look for your favorites and stock up for emergencies.
The Blue Jay of Happiness remembers the old-fashioned storm cellars on Midwestern farms. A person entered one by opening a horizontally configured door, then descended a dark stairway to a cool, underground room. The walls were lined with shelves, containing Ball Mason jars filled with fruits and vegetables.