The popularity of canned foods during crises predates the 2020 coronavirus pandemic and includes the feeding of soldiers during wartime as well as everyday folks during the worldwide Long Depression of the late 1800s and the 20th century’s Great Depression.
The French military leader and emperor Napoleon Bonaparte is credited with the invention of canning. Though he didn’t develop the process itself, he offered a cash award in 1795 to whoever came up with a way to ensure that his traveling army would always have a safe and reliable source of food. The recipient of the prize was the French chef Nicolas Appert, who invented a method of sealing and heating food in glass jars.
True canning came in 1810, when the Englishman Peter Durand patented the use of more durable metal containers for preserving food. Another Brit, William Underwood, established the first canning facility in the U.S. in 1821, and his company’s products—including Deviled Ham Spread—continue to be manufactured today.
This article appears in the July 2020 issue of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.