Monday, May 14, 2012

This one took me awhile, but I finally finished "The Canning Clan: A Pageant of Pioneering Americans" (1938) by Earl Chapin May. I couldn't find any reviews online, so I guess I need to write a really good one. This book was a lot of fun for me, and I learned a lot. I've never done any canning myself, but I certainly do eat my share of food. And I can always count on it keeping in my cabinet because of the work done by those who came before me. We take it for granted now, of course. In 1938 when this book was written, it was still a relatively new thing to be able to count on canned food. Before folks learned about bacteria, vacuum seals and mechanical manufacture of cans, making canning work was very hit-or-miss. The book goes into the history of canning some specific foods, the families involved, the copyright and patent battles...just lots of fun details.

Toward the end of the book, there is a short section all by itself. I'm gonna let you read it:

One question commonly asked concerning canned foods is whether or not the contents of the can should be removed to another container immediately after opening. This question has its origin in the belief that if food is allowed to remain in the can after opening, it will absorb an injurious substance from the can and thus become hazardous to the health of the consumer. For this belief there is not the slightest foundation of fact. Why it should persist in the light of present-day knowledge is a mystery. With certain foods, it is desirable from the standpoint of quality to remove the food from the can. Such foods, usually those of an acidic nature, may act slowly on the can after air is admitted, and small amounts of tin and iron may be absorbed...[which] may impart a slight taste to the food. (page 454)
I found this to be highly amusing because I was always taught to get the food out of the can. I'm not sure that I can break the habit, but surely after all these years with no known incidents of "can poisoning", we can let that myth go! The author also wrote some other history books, but this is all I could find about him:
Earl Chapin May 87 Dies
Earl Chapin May 87, Rochelle, IL, well-known author and one-time director of the University of Wisconsin band, died Friday (Nov. 11, 1960), in a hospital after a short illness. Mr May was known for his books on industry and was a former press agent for the Ringling Brothers circus. He wrote 12 books including "Rome to Ringling: a history of circuses" and hundreds of magazine articles. After graduating from high school, he spent a year traveling with a circus, watering elephants and posting bills. He then enrolled at the university and was conductor of the band in 1894-95 and 1896-1997. In 1953, Mr. May returned to Madison to conduct numbers in a band reunion concert. Mr May is survived by his wife Stella Burke May. The couple returned to his home in Rochelle in 1958 after living in New York, Europe, and South America for 30 years. Funeral services will be held Monday afternoon in Rochelle.
Source: Wisconsin State Journal 11/13/1960
Anyhow, I would certainly recommend this book. I found it in our files at the office, but I'm not sure what it was doing there. Perhaps they needed it for environmental research? I could ask someone, but I won't.

1 comment:

Janette said...

Fasinating! Go on and ask; I'd really like to know (where the book came from).