San Francisco Socialite Sarah Williamson Helped Promote Canned Meals In 1916

by Jaelyn Conley

San Francisco has all the time been an arbiter of California tradition, and this was as true a century in the past as it’s in the present day. It’s dwelling to its personal specialty delicacies in addition to a novel number of sourdough bread, the place the place steam beer was born, and its proximity to the Pacific Ocean has given San Francisco a well-earned fame as a spot the place scrumptious seafood can all the time be had, some fairly particular to the area, equivalent to Dungeness crab.

California itself is an enormous agricultural state that gives the remainder of the nation with recent greens and fruit, and naturally it’s America’s largest producer of wine. What’s much less identified is that San Francisco performed an vital position in selling the export of meals by canning in an period when it was not attainable to refrigerate vans and trains.

Canning and the preservation of meals is one thing we take with no consideration now, and canned meals are sometimes thought to be inferior to recent. However this was not all the time the case. The historical past of meals preservation in tin cans or mason jars goes again all to the way in which to 1795 when the French military, on the behest of Napoleon himself, supplied a reward to anybody who might give you a technique of preserving meals on lengthy navy marches and campaigns. An inventor got here ahead named Nicolas Appert who steered sealing meals in metallic containers after which pasteurizing them by elevating the temperature of the sealed meals excessive sufficient to kill any microorganisms inside. The system labored and was confirmed on a check with the French navy in 1806. Appert walked away with the prize in 1810.

By the early 1820s, canning had taken maintain in New York and in California, with Robert Ayars establishing the primary American canning manufacturing unit in Manhattan in 1812. By 1888, double seams had been invented by Max Ams, creating the trendy, hermetic seal that we all know in canned meals merchandise in the present day. That is the type of can with a cylindrical physique made with anodized metal, with the 2 ends connected utilizing a double seam. The sealed can thus didn’t must be soldered, which was usually a supply of contamination and lead poisoning.

Although canning was utilized by numerous militaries all through the 1800s, that was completed extra out of necessity than as a result of the meals tasted higher, and it took some time for the notion of canned meals on the market in neighborhood grocery tales to take maintain. It was not till later within the nineteenth century that it got here into basic use by the general public, particularly in California the place recent greens and fruit have been accessible 12 months spherical. Cooks on the West Coast typically regarded canned merchandise as inferior to recent produce, however this started to alter in 1916 when a San Francisco socialite and chef grew to become an outspoken advocate of canning as a technique of accelerating the number of meals accessible in on a regular basis eating.

Sarah M. Williamson was a rich San Francisco single girl, born in 1878. By her mid-thirties she had a large circle of pals stretching throughout the continent; she knew each vital household West of the Mississippi. As such, her views have been influential.

“Why ban canned merchandise?” she wrote in 1916. “Particularly on this state, the place probably the most scrumptious fruits, greens and meats are available in cans? Great dishes could be concocted from cans,” she added. “Individuals who haven’t experimented with canned items, or who take into account them unwholesome make an infinite mistake. Most glorious meals could be gotten up from cans. With canned peas, beans (string) and asparagus, one could make an ideal salad, and the sliced canned tomatoes are additionally nice in salads. A can of oxtail soup used for gravy inventory metamorphoses a second day reduce of meat right into a stew or fancy roast that an epicure would get pleasure from.”

Business canning was comparatively new in 1916 and its industrial success might have gone both method. Whereas California was a supply for canned items again East, native cooks felt that they have been best destined for distant locations the place recent meals have been merely not accessible. It was voices like that of Sarah Williamson that helped turned that notion round, and it was she who acknowledged that canned meals was all the time preferable to stale meals, in these early days earlier than refrigeration, which had been left too many days within the larder.

Sarah Williamson had relationships with many well-known individuals of her day. She found, for instance, that Jack London, the well-known author, was very specific about the way in which he appreciated his rice cooked, and he or she persuaded Jack London’s spouse to half along with her husband’s favourite recipe, which she printed in an area newspaper.

Sarah Williamson shouldn’t be a determine a lot remembered within the twenty first century, although she clearly performed a job within the culinary historical past of San Francisco and maybe has had an impact on the evolution of style and tradition in California, selling as she did within the second decade of the 20th century a expertise that was then new however nonetheless regarded with suspicion by many housewives, and certainly, generally shunned as unhealthy. The California of 1916 was simply starting to develop a way of its trendy place, tradition, and atmosphere, and canning of meals would assist make California an enormous exporter o America and even to the remainder of the world.

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