Last week, Slate published a short piece on the trendiness of home preserving. This so-called trend isn’t news to me — or probably to any of you. Anyone with even a passing interest in seasonal food has encountered a home canning enthusiast, or has even done a little bit of canning him- or herself. And over the past few months, Dan has been working on a new book about canning, which explains the profusion of extremely non-seasonal canned goods on our dining room table, above — they were for a photo shoot.
It happens frequently on the web that the comments to a thought-provoking piece are more interesting than the piece itself, and at least some of the time, that’s the case for this article, too. I particularly liked this one:
Canning might be a new trend for the New York foodie or the eco-conscious Portland hipster, but it hasn’t gone away since your grandma did it. People in the “flyover states” never stopped canning. For many rural families, canning is a cost effective way to preserve their home-grown produce so that it lasts all winter. These are people who grow their own tomatoes in the back yard; they aren’t paying $5 a pound at Whole Foods. I know my fresh vegetables would fetch good prices at an urban farmer’s market, but that isn’t the point. I eat what I need, can as much as I care to do, and give away the rest. There are few things as satisfying has having a pantry full of jam, applesauce, beans, pickles, pears, and whatever else I get around to canning.
I also have to take issue with the statement that canning is all about producing “idiosyncratic” items like condiments rather than “serious food.” Unless you live on a steady diet of Campbell’s soup and Spaghetti-Os, you probably aren’t buying many entrees in cans. Look at the canned goods in the grocery store; they’re mostly jam, fruits, vegetables, tomato sauce, etc.–basically, stuff you could easily can yourself. Home canners are indeed reducing their dependence on industrial food in equal proportion to the amount of food they can themselves.