Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Food Storage Technology
Yesterday, Mosch and I were at the house of one of his relatives, J. J and her roommate K were looking at a book of pictures from national parks of the world. K remarked that she had a friend (or someone she knew) who lived in Ghana, and told her it was wonderful there because all of the food was fresh - nothing canned, nothing boxed.
I found this a bit odd. After all, we have fresh food here, right? I could choose to totally eschew canned or packaged foods and have a complete diet with a ton of variety. To me, the availability of canned and packaged foods is an advantage of living here instead of Ghana. (Let me be clear. I can understand how if a westerner visited Ghana, they could find it refreshing to go to a market every day and purchase fresh foods for dinner, instead of the way we live here. I'm not arguing against the novel refreshment of a different lifestyle, just against the argument K seemed to be making that Ghana really is nicer in that way.)
So I commented in a pretty mild way that I appreciate the availability of canned foods, even though I have the option here of eating only fresh foods too. J said that she and K pretty much use fresh foods for their entire diet (which I think their giant full pantry argues against, but they do cook a ton of fresh foods, bake their own bread, etc.), and that this is why they plan to try canning this year.
J explained that canning your own food means having fresh food available year-round, as opposed to store-bought canned food, which is not the same, is full of preservatives, and sits on shelves for years.
I didn't argue with this (since I'm basically not a jerk, or at least not all the time), but it doesn't make much sense to me. Most canned goods of the type you could make at home are not, in fact, full of preservatives. If you look at almost any canned vegetable's ingredients, for instance, you'll see that it just contains that vegetable, water, and usually salt. Salt-free and organic varieties are usually available too. And there is a lot of turnover in these products, so I think it would be rare for a can to sit on a shelf for even three or four months, much less a year. (Exotic products may be different, but I doubt J & K are planning to can their own coconut milk or candied tamarind.)
Canning your own food sounds like it could be a fun activity or hobby - like making your own candles or brewing your own beer - but it's hard for me to see how it could be an improvement in either health or economy over buying pre-canned goods. And personally, I am really thankful for the modern technologies of food storage that mean I don't have to go to a market every day and buy fresh foods to make the evening's supper.