Relay, Something’s Brewing

Something’s Doin’ … It’s a Revolution…

Further to our earlier posts on Guinness, including on draft and bottled/canned beer, we should mention Guinness has been building a brewery in Relay, Maryland.

The site is a former distillery, Calvert, owned by Diageo, label owner of Guinness. The property was there, the alcohol history was there. The penny finally dropped and the American Blonde brand and presumably other beer will gush from Guinness fermenters on American soil later this year.

Guinness had owned a brewery in Long Island City, NY back in the early 1950s. It was an outgrowth of the Burke ale and stout brewery built by a longstanding Guinness importer. There were also experiments to brew Guinness elsewhere in the U.S. (in the southwest, for example) in the same period.

The idea didn’t take, but it’s time has come. Today, even for a storied brand as Guinness, the idea that local manufacture has an unassailable integrity is ever more tenuous. Brewing is so sophisticated today that any kind of beer can be brewed anywhere, virtually. All it takes is the will.

In any case Guinness has long had plants or license arrangements in Nigeria, in Caribbean, nay in Toronto. This is just the next step, and long overdue in fact.

Pending opening the permanent visitor centre and taprooms (there will be several) at Relay, a temporary taproom opened a few months ago. It is located in Halethorpe, a mile from Relay and site of one of the Calvert whiskey warehouses. Baltimore is only about 10 miles away.

A two-barrel system has been installed and a bar is open from Thursday-Sunday. The Guinness-brand stouts are brought in from Dublin, but experimental beers are being made and sold from the pilot operation.

The following beers are being offered at date of writing according to the website:

 

Guinness Draught Stout

Guinness Blonde Lager

Guinness Foreign Extra Stout

Guinness Antwerpen Stout

Guinness 200th Anniversary Export Stout (bottles)

Guinness Crosslands Pale Ale (Featuring Dark Cloud Malthouse and Black Locust Hops)

Guinness Black IPA #1

Guinness Golden Series #7

Guinness Golden Series #8

Guinness Mild Ale #1

Guinness IPA #2

Not a bad list.

One of the two brewers is a former Stone Brewery employee, Peter Wiens, an impressive pedigree. They have been quoted that they have a free hand to brew the beers they like. The above list shows some interesting ones, especially the Black IPA. There have been some collaborations as well with local microbrewers including Heavy Seas (Clipper City), long-established in the locality.

Noteworthy is the offering on draft of the strong Guinness Foreign Extra Stout and Antwerp (aka Special Export) Stout, to date only available bottled and not easy to find.

One wonders if these are pasteurized, presumably the regular draft is. Even if FES and SES are too it is probably by a less intrusive process than bottled and canned beer typically get. It should be a good drop at the bar, either way.

This development follows upon a pilot facility installed a few years ago at St. James Gate, the Open Gate Brewery. The American facility will be similarly named.

The Dublin Open Gate has focused, or when we last looked, on saison and other trendy craft styles. But hopefully Guinness stout and porter as made in the 19th century will emerge, or rather re-emerge, and see dawn of day in America too.

Hence we see modest signs that Guinness, after sticking to its knitting with pasteurised, “widget” (nitrogen-dispense) stout for decades, is turning the ship around. It looks to join the craft brewing trend that after all is its own history and heritage, one almost invisible at St. James Gate, so long has industrial brewing been ideé reçue.

If Relay and the Dublin Open Gates offer finally cask-conditioned stout and porter brewed to 19th century standards including from all-malt, the circle will be completed.  If you want to see how cask-conditioned Guinness was served in one pub in Dublin, The Long Hall, look here in the first minute. It’s shown with remarkable colour fidelity, the film is from about 1960.

It’s a documentary from British Pathé memorializing, or in retrospect it does, the “old way” for Guinness. Later in the film in another pub, you see Guinness drawn from an early small metal font: that provided the mix of carbon dioxide and nitrogen gas current today.

The old way served the beer (often, not invariably) from tall gleaming hand-pulls, unpressurised pumps used to dispense ale and porter since the early 1800s.

Will it soon be 1960 and The Long Hall Pub all over again?

Feicfimid.

Obs. We see no reason not to have an Open Gate in Toronto, Guinness. All in due time, we trust.

 

 

Handpumped Guinness in Living Colour

I’m bringing forward my earlier post on draft Guinness as it was before the “nitro-pour”, see here. This post is among the most read in my catalogue, along with my piece on Dow ale.

The post fits well with a fascinating British Pathé clip I found on youtube the other day, see here. It shows in living colour the drawing of Guinness in Dublin by handpump c. 1960. The beer appears to get a finishing dose from a second barrel under the bar. The tap is turned by hand in this case – no pump handle; perhaps the second beer came up by compressed air.

The second brew was probably the flat, more aged Guinness of two forms in the cellar. In that period, draft Guinness was often a mix of two casks, one fresh and foamy, the other flatter, older, perhaps a little lactic. A touch of the latter gave the beer a greater complexity.

In the literature on Irish porter, there is inconsistency whether the fresh foamy cask was poured first or the flatter, older beer. To my mind the older beer should go in second, but perhaps that is not right, or some pubs did it different ways. In any case you see two pours in one glass in the film if you look carefully.

The pub shown, The Long Hall in Great Georges Street, still exists, as you see here. Using the 360 degree view feature one sees the handpull paraphernalia still. Unless used for a craft brand, it is disused as no Guinness today is served by handpump. It’s decor, now.

The pub is extremely handsome, a lush Victorian interior is belied by the plain frontage and fascia. If you want an idea of the 19th century gin palace, this gives more than the flavour.

Cask stout today or no, The Long Hall looks a great place to have a drink and ponder the shades of Brendan Behan.

The stunning visual document from British Pathé, not previously identified by the beer historical community to my knowledge, is a valuable aid to understanding Guinness history.

Diageo Guinness, to my knowledge again, has resisted bringing back cask-conditioned beer, something that mystifies me, but there it is. If it ever does so though, I would advise an all-malt specification and vigorous hopping as Guinness used in the 19th century and probably into the mid-1900s.

 

 

CMOS Brewing

In 1939 with war clouds on the horizon, the Journal of the Institute of Brewing (IOB) took time to discuss a matter it had periodically dealt with in the past: the best wood for casks and a comparison of American and “Memel” oak.

The 1939 article was probably the last time the IOB looked at this, or in any detail. After the war Crown Memel Oak Staves (CMOS) from Lithuanian forests and other areas in the Baltic proved almost impossible to find. If brewers could find it, the staves were frequently marred by shell splinters and other damage from the late war.

In time, as the old Memel casks quite literally tapped out, lined American wood was relied on, with metal casks finally taking over.

Why were the American casks lined? The author of the 1939 article, William Lindsay, explained all the background:

The timber used for brewery and distillery casks is invariably oak. The origin of this oak is usually Russia or North America; other kinds have been tried but not successfully. The properties essential for cask timber are:—
(1) Neutrality—to preserve the flavour of the beer.
(2) Tightness—to prevent leakage.
(3) Breathing ability for maturing the liquor.
(4) Bending ability to prevent breakages.
(5) Hard wearing.
Russian or Polish oak has a fine balance of these properties and is shipped in staves of standardised quality and measurement. The staves are known as Crown Memel Oak Staves, and is the wood commonly used for beer casks. American oak is closer-grained and denser and consequently harder and tighter, but for that reason it is more difficult to remove objectionable flavouring matters. When used for beer, an internal lining is necessary.

[Note added Nov. 20, 2019: I later found a website with a link to the 1930s coopering film discussed in Lindsay’s article: see this post].

Hence, the casks were lined to keep out “objectionable flavouring matters”. What were they? Earlier articles in the IOB’s Journal explained them as particular flavours imparted by the species of oak typical of the Arkansas and other North American forests.

One IOB account called it a “cocoanut” taste, and noted that CMOS casks did not carry the taste. Any tannic taste from CMOS was easy to leach out, as William Lindsay explained in 1939, since the grain was looser than for American oak.

The disliked American taste was, evidently, the bright vanillin and coconut flavours familiar to anyone who knows bourbon whiskey or Chardonnay wine. And it’s not just American wine, but almost any Chardonnay, as most have some aging in American oak. (Sometimes French and other non-U.S. wood is used, but relatively little due to the scarcity and expense).

The plain fact is that British brewers did not want the American oak taste in pale ale or porter. There was an apparent exception for Guinness, as some evidence exists for its use of (charred) American oak casks in the 1800s.

But English, Scots, and Welsh brewers did not want the taste. When they first had to use American casks during WW I they lined them to keep that taste out.

British casks from CMOS were not generally lined although experiments occurred off and on since the 1800s to use enamel and other barriers. This was not to keep out a bad wood taste but to preclude souring from microflora in hard-to-clean wood casks.

Tastes change, and the coconut, vanilla taste of modern barrel-aged beer is familiar to anyone who follows the beer scene. Use of American, unlined, oak barrels to store beer is only one practice now considered normal that didn’t used to be generations ago.*

A second point to consider: has an historical brewing project been done to use Memel casks? Not that I’m aware of. Some wood currently used in mashing, fermentation, or even for casks in some traditional U.K. breweries may be CMOS, English oak, or other European. But likely the wood would only influence a small part, if any, of the taste.

And so, I urge such a project. Memel oak is available again, in enough quantity surely to make casks and probably other brewing vessels.

Below is an example of the beautiful oak that helped shape the greatness of British beer for centuries. It is from Ekenex JSC, a Lithuanian wood exporter, see their page here.

Note how straight the logs are, which allowed traditionally to split them for staves (no sawing). The wood was famous for having few knots and blemishes. While not as hard as American white oak, and somewhat more porous, it was more durable enough for beer purposes. It was “the” choice of British brewing for centuries.

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*Cloudy beer is one. Sour beer is (by and large) another.

 

 

The Irish Pedigree of Corned Beef

Culinary Specialists Examine the Question

With the arrival imminent of the day of Saint Patrick (SPD), I remind of my March 19, 2016 blogpost. It cites evidence of substantial Irish attachment to corned beef in the 1800s, contrary to annual modern accounts that it is a faux-ethnic and national dish deriving from American cultural influence.

To be sure, countless food articles on both sides of the Atlantic acknowledge that corned beef is a favourite for SPD but often with a hint of exasperation, as if the dish really isn’t Irish.

In this regard, a 2011 academic study is worth noting, entitled Irish Corned Beef: a Culinary History. Published by the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), it was co-authored by Dr. Mairtin Mac Con Iomaire of the DIT and Padraic Og Gallagher. You may read it here.

The authors do not accept the “simplistic” explanation, one I had also found wanting, that the Irish connection to corned beef can be traced to emigrants’ exposure to Jewish corned beef in New York.

The authors show that corned beef, under various names, has had a long history in Ireland. Initially, it was a largely aristocratic or festive dish that had nothing to do with the British. Later, the Irish association expanded under British auspices, often to supply corned beef to HM ships or for other Empire needs. Cork city is important in this history as a production locale.

They argue that finally the dish became part of Irish cookery as such.

The authors are careful to note that corned beef and cabbage has had (as do many foods anywhere) a regional footprint in Ireland, and an irregular family pattern.

Their investigation, which collected personal testimonies, shows that some families never ate it, with bacon a frequent alternative, while many did choose corned beef especially for the main holidays. In the later 20th century corned beef fell in national favour with bacon enjoying an uptick. The authors suggest that relative cost was the main factor in this regard. Conversely, they suggest that the comparatively favourable price of beef in the U.S. encouraged its greater consumption there.

I found the three sources discussed in my 2016 post in just a few minutes, using Google Books. There must be, I would think, many other references attesting to the long use of corned beef in Ireland among different classes and ethnicities, especially in light of the study noted.

As I noted earlier, the Jewish ways with corned beef seem to me quite different to Irish preparations. Jews don’t serve boiled cabbage and boiled potato with it, for one thing, and hot or cold it is usually made into sandwiches versus the Irish way as a set dish. The meat isn’t quite the same either, in my experience again (the flavour).

At day’s end, the food world of the people carries on, and thousands of corned beef-and-cabbage dinners will be enjoyed across North America soon, with not a few in Ireland itself. This proceeds from the assumption that the dish is, quite naturally, Irish.

It will be satisfying for some that the popular assumption of an authentic Irish character may well be right.

N.B. I liked as well the largely jargon-free tone of the article referenced. The authors’ acknowledgement of non-academic literature is welcome, too, including writing by Myrtle Allen, Alan Davidson, and Mark Kurlansky.

Note re image: image shown above, entitled St. Patrick’s Day Icon Set Collection, is by mvolz, and was sourced from the Open Clip Art site. Image is believed in the public domain but any and all intellectual property therein belongs solely to its lawful owner. Image used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

Barney’s Beanery Rocks Beer Pre-craft

 

Shown herein, courtesy the historic menu collection of Los Angeles Public Library, is the beer list of the legendary Barney’s Beanery in Hollywood, CA c.1980. I first visited L.A. about this time, and the list is exactly as I recall it.

Barney’s was founded in 1920 and continues to this day at the original location. It’s in the same, low-slung wood frame building it always was. New ownership in this millennium has expanded the brand to other locations, all to the good as the original vibe seems a goal of the modern Barney’s.

The image below of the original location is from the restaurant’s website. The exterior is virtually unchanged for generations and the interior too, judging by images I’ve seen online.

Barney’s Beanery was known in the old days in L.A. as beer-central. This was before Pizza Port, Stone Brewing, Lagunitas, and all the rest of beer revival’s royalty. But places like Barney’s paved the way – remember that.

As you see from its menu about 40 years ago there were only a few drafts available: Miller (High Life), Miller Lite, and Lowenbrau. This Lowenbrau was brewed in America by then, not Germany.

The availability of Miller in both light and dark versions reflects an earlier time, when “dark beer” – an American interpretation of Munich (or Dunkel) lager – had a niche market. To beer fans then, a “dark” was an alternative to the mass-market norm.*

But Barney’s bottled list is where the action was, and this too reflects an earlier era, when bottled, pasteurized beer was the form frequently available in the far-flung, pre-AC west coast. Delicate draft beer was not the ideal form to handle at the time there.

Despite advances in logistics by the 1970s, the cultural memory in southern California retained the preference to drink beer from an iced bottle. Of course, this form has never died out and is still popular in the region.

Barney’s beer menu of the time, in fact, is a study in 1970s beery predilections. From Canada came “Molson’s”, type not specified. It may have been Molson’s Golden Ale, or Export Ale, fairly light but tasty mass market ales. Today only the Export Ale survives, and Molson is now called Molson-Coors.

“England”, as many Americans still call the British Union – supplied Bass and Whitbread ale, pretty solid choices. Scotland supplied the dark, weighty McEwan’s Ale, and available currently in Ontario. The brand is now a Marston’s property (in Burton on Trent). The Scotch ale, at 8% ABV, is excellent, malty-winey, and offers a taste of early post-WW II brewing history – of what was on the Barney’s menu of 40 years ago, therefore.

Nearby Mexico offered up the usual suspects including Corona, so one sees the bridgehead of its current world penetration: places like Barney’s made it happen. Beer authority Michael Jackson once described Corona’s emergence in California as an unlikely, “sub-yuppie” phenomenon. That success later went national, and beyond.

Noche Buena was available too, which Jackson always liked. I think it’s still made, a caramel/amber evocation of the old Vienna lager style. It dates from the time Mexico was in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

A mainland China beer is a bit of a surprise, perhaps, for the time but Richard Nixon had recently opened up China trade, that probably explains it.

No craft beers are represented even though the craft pioneer Anchor Brewing’s beers were available in L.A. then. And, if the menu is post-1977, theoretically beer from New Albion Brewing in Sonoma could have been listed. (New Albion was the first modern craft brewery, given that Anchor Brewing actually originated in 1896).

But it was too soon for craft beer to appear even on a menu like this one: “craft” was on virtually no one’s radar at the time.

Wouldn’t it be great to recreate a Barney’s-style 1970s brunch today? Say, an avocado omelette, sourdough bread (the Bay Area is close enough), a Cobb salad, Crenshaw melon, and some of those bottled 1970s beers. You would have, not just a great retro meal, but a good one for any time. With a great disco soundtrack to match, of course.

Finally, that Barney’s cared about good beer is especially obvious, not just from the dozen or so German beers on the list but Pilsner Urquell, San Miguel Dark, and Carlsberg Dark.

San Miguel Dark in particular is a rich, delicious beer almost never seen in North America, from the Philippines. (Its blonde lager is far more available). Hark all importers, or craft brewers looking to make an interesting Dunkel emulation.

Net net, beer was honoured at Barney’s in the disco era. The range of beers today is much greater, for styles as well as source given the thousands of breweries nation-wide, but that doesn’t mean beer fans didn’t have excellent choices then, too. The Barney’s menu shows that they did.

N.B. Thanks to Tim Holt, editor of the journal Brewery History, who indirectly suggested the theme of this post.

Note re images: the images above were obtained from the sources identified and linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.

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*Two forms of bottled Lowenbrau are classified as German, but either this was a, um, printing hangover from earlier days when the beer was German-brewed, or perhaps the bar offered German Lowenbrau in bottles and American-brewed Lowenbrau for the draft.

 

 

 

 

I&G Kindred Spirits

 

Scotch-Irish Solidarity

Provided by the brand’s PR for review (as earlier I&G’s I’ve reviewed), I opened this at near room-temperature. It’s a release timed of course to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day: the aging barrels had held Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey.

I’ve written earlier on the new barrel-in-beer method of Scotland-based I&G. The results are evident to see here as well: the beer is touched by a cured wood flavour, but retains an essential freshness. The result for me is that the off-putting oxidative notes of many barrel-aged beers are absent.

It’s a great method and shows that innovation is ceaseless and necessary in brewing as in any other endeavour.

The taste is good and natural. I like the fact that there is no raw, over-roasted character. And the bitterness is more than adequate. I don’t believe porter and stout should be hop bombs, in fact.

It’s contemporary Irish in following the dryness of most Irish stout of no great gravity, at least the ones I’ve had both made in Ireland and North American emulations.

Whether O’Hara’s, Murphy’s, Guinness (any version), or a North American craft brand, it’s a trait almost invariable in modern stout and porter averaging 4-6% abv, anyway.

I prefer a sweeter taste, more malty, a taste too I believe is historical for the mild (unaged) end of the stout spectrum.

True, barrel-aging implies perhaps a greater attenuation than “new” beer, but still at > 6% abv the beer could stand more body.

On the other hand, most consumers would doubtless prefer the formulation as bottled. Can you taste Irish or any whiskey? No, but you never do, that’s always the way. If you used a wood innocent of whiskey’s kiss, it would taste different though. In that sense, using ex-whiskey casks adds a je ne sais quoi.

What the Irish whiskey gives is, the taste that would not be there if you didn’t use it. That’s a good craic, eh? If it isn’t, I plead in defence: broken Irish is better than clever English.

 

 

Steak & Kidney With Sauerkraut!

 

 

Fleisch mit Gemüse, Aussie-style

The above luncheon menu, sourced here from Australian state library archives, illustrates fusion cuisine before the term was known. In later posts we will examine other menus featured in this link, particularly of Australian wine and food clubs.

The Vine Inn is a long-standing institution in South Australia, in Nuriootpa about an hour’s drive north of Adelaide.The menu is from November 1956. It featured as a main course steak and kidney pie with sauerkraut, green beans, and tomato. It’s a dizzying exhibition of disparate culinary elements.

The appetizer is spaghetti on toast, a starchy combination with probably no direct Italian origin. As a U.K. supper or nursery dish it is well-known, also where U.K. influence was once dominant. Australia is an example, but the dish is known in our own Newfoundland, too.

So we have food elements here of British, German, and quasi-Italian origin. The desserts (fruit-based) are more typically Australian, except the Christmas pudding which is English really, as is the biscuits with cheese to end. Barossa had a vibrant fruit  growing and canning industry from the 1930s until quite recently, and vestiges yet remain. “Barossa Canneries” likely meant the desserts were fruit canned or dried by this large business.

But sauerkraut? Well, the Barossa district had a large German population, much of it from Silesia; they came in the late 1800s. The sauerkraut was a lingering example of their influence.

Given Australia’s isolation, and that in 1956 only about 100 years had passed since the settlement days, why were there not more German dishes on the menu? The answer is given by Angela Heuzenroeder in her informative and lively book, Barossa Food. She explains by the time two world wars had passed, this had dampened enthusiasm for open exhibitions of German culture (understandably). Still, the 1956 Vine menu found a place for good old sauerkraut. Of course it’s cabbage-based, and the British know cabbage!

And (my take): a hotel, as an “official” kind of presence in a community, might be expected to act conservatively in such matters. This applies even more to the Vine Inn as it was, and still is, community-owned in a unique arrangement.

The bistro menu of today’s Vine Inn offers many more choices than in 1956. But interestingly, Italian food is still present. So is German eating, now more elaborate with different schnitzels and a stuffed Heidelberg chicken. With the years passing, war memories have receded and some of the old ethnic dishes are back on hotel menus, at least in Barossa and nearby. U.K.-inspired foods still feature including a roast of the day, fish and chips, and grilled salmon.

Penfolds wines featured on the 1956 menu and today have a world-wide reputation. So that ’56 menu was ahead of its time in that regard too.

Below is the Vine’s dining room as it looks today, taken from the hotel’s website, here.

 

A Fine Way With Beer and Chicken

Anne Willan is a distinguished culinary author who established an influential cooking school in Paris over 40 years ago, La Varenne (1975-2007).

She has written well on French provincial food. Her combination of on-the-ground experience and advanced education gives the writing extra verve and depth. (We are great rock fans but the injunction constantly heard a la “we don’t need no education” has limited application here).

Her 1981 French Regional Cooking is a classic, a worthy successor to the great works by Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson introducing French country cooking to English readers.

Unlike many surveys of French provincial eating, she deals in-depth with the north, an area always behind the others as optics go, due probably to propinquity, climate, and unhappy war memories. The volume mentioned is particularly well-illustrated.

Her northern recipe for chicken with beer seems from memory the same as this one under her name from an Internet source, so I followed the latter. You see a picture of the result. I used a few meaty wings of turkey instead of chicken.

Poultry in general can stand substitution in such recipes, one by the other, indeed it is probable most recipes blending poultry with beer were inspired by dishes of rabbit and beer, seemingly an older tradition.

The direction to make the sauce with yogurt and vinegar is intended, although this is not stated, to replicate the crème fraiche, a staple of French cookery. I may not use it as the turkey in this form is rich enough: with breasts or another lean cut it would make more sense. Enough natural gelatine is released to thicken the sauce I think, but I may do it just to see what it tastes like.

I took off a layer of fat last night by blotting with paper towels and the dish looks really good.

What makes it French, or specifically northern French, is not just the beer but the gin, thyme, bay leaf, and shallot. I followed the recipe more or less: onion went in for shallot, for gin I used a blend of a genièvre from the Lille area and Quebec-produced de Kuyper Dutch gin, which certainly adds a definite tang, and authenticity. I omitted the juniper berries as I didn’t have any.

This way with beer and meat omits sugar and mustard, more typically used with beef in the Northern carbonnades.

I think the suggestion of juniper was intended to convey a flavour of Ardenne cooking, allied to Nord-Pas-de-Calais’ but leaning also further east. It’s the taste of the forest and valleys in the area between the north proper and Alsace-Lorraine.

It’s true though that a dash of gin often goes into poultry with beer in recipes around the Lille region. Had I had turkey from Liques, that would have been the perfect touch. Liques is famous for the fine quality of its poultry, which owes its origin to monastic endeavour in the 1700s. How appropriate, given the abbeys’ considerable role in the history of European brewing.

I didn’t use a Trappist or abbey beer either: it was a blend of Lakeport Ice and an Ontario craft dunkel (brown lager).

But I’ll tell you, if I was patron serving this after the market day in Liques at the local bistro ils ne dédaignent pas. Du tout.

Bully for (Good) Canned Beef

At one time, canning technology was prized as a brilliant solution to excess kitchen drudgery. Today, canning companies are under the gun, cowering under weight of competition from whole foods and organic producers.

I’ll set aside whether the fresh food of our day, particularly fruit and veg as shipped to cold-climate countries, is always superior to canned and frozen versions.

But canned food, whose history thekitchn.com summarizes neatly here, proved in any case a lifeline, or at least a high convenience. To harried families with two parents working, or even one, it saved time and provided nourishment at an acceptable cost.

To persons in remote areas, not easily able to procure fresh food, or those living in circumstances where running a “scratch” kitchen was not feasible, likewise. Nay, some people actually liked the taste of these foods.

I was just reading a memoir of the novelist Jack Kerouac by his first wife, Edie Parker, daughter as it happened of Grosse Point, MI grandees. She explained how their favourite quick meal (early 1940s) was canned tomato soup. His mother was a French-Canadian whom it can be assumed kept a master kitchen. This did not prevent the enjoyment of foods easily kept and prepared so people could get on with other things in their life.

Yet today, the iconic Campbell’s is closing plants here and there, one in Toronto recently… Did that Warhol start all this?

Really it’s a question of fashion, of yin and yang. The prosperity brought by the industrial and technological revolutions has enabled people to react against some of the things that made it possible.

At the extreme, familiarity breeds contempt, and the cycle starts anew, except in this case, the food technology that created tinning, freezing, and other labour-saving miracles is keeping the new wave going too, more subtly; it’s another story.

But there’s no question: ever since the 1960s prompted the green movement, Alice Waters, and similar phenomena in the U.K. hungering for the natural and unprocessed – that Jaime fellow – a mass movement has demanded food authenticity. And superheated meat or veg entombed in a can doesn’t qualify.

What once was expensive and chic – canned food – became viewed as downmarket – not worthy of the attention of foodies and the self-aware.

In fact, some canned food actually created a new taste. Even Elizabeth David acknowledged this, well, she or Jane Grigson, in regard to deluxe tinned fish specialties of west European coastal canners. The kind of fish they chose, the olive oil, the canning process, created a new and inviting taste, different from fresh sardines or pilchard, but as good in its way.

And I refuse to see what’s wrong with canned pineapple, for example. It tastes good!

Today, many peoples, not feeling or being able to afford the need to flaunt credentials in green-clean eating, unabashedly enjoy some canned food. Tinned corned beef is appreciated still through the South Pacific. The attachment to Spam continues famously in Hawaii, Philippines, and other parts of the Pacific.

These foods were brought by sojourning seamen or army personnel, locals had a taste and decided they liked it. They had a better life with such preserved foods than before – they thought so, anyway.

With immigration from these areas and the Caribbean too where canned foods (e.g. ackee) are still popular, Canada offers many of these items in supermarkets. Apart from these markets some other Canadians buy them too, to make corned beef hash, for sandwiches, or in some other way they remember from their youth.

And I buy a little, because I like the history, and the taste of a good brand. Pictured is the Grace brand popular here, a top-rate corned beef from Brazil. It’s a low-salt version and just 10% fat (per label).

An index of the salt that went in to the original formulations is that the low-salt one, as ditto for Spam, is pretty salty! It’s more than enough salinity even for fans of the salt kick.

I sliced a few pieces and lightly browned them in a no-stick pan. Served it with a boiled potato – okay, microwaved. And a small salad to accompany. Okay, I lost the salad. Didn’t forget the ketchup though.

Excellent! The meat was not fat at all, a nice rosy-pink, tasty, digestible. The connection to a deli corned beef sandwich was quite evident.

This was probably much better than the Anzac and other Allied troops marched on in two world wars. There was no off-odour, nothing muttony as I recall from some brands 30-40 years ago. Dare I say it’s a cheap luxury food?

Is it for everyday, no, probably not for every week. But it was good, and convenient, pace the food monitors out there. I love you all, but give me a break, sometimes.

In due deference though to the parlous rep this comestible has for those resolute in their greenness, I cite a good one from an Australian food website.

… one story tells of an Anzac soldier throwing a tin of bully beef into the Turkish trenches, perhaps in disgust, maybe thinking it would do more damage than the usual grenades. But the can was soon thrown back with the note: ‘Cigarettes yes, bully beef, no.’

Oops, no cigarettes today either. And those Allied chocolate rations – made at England’s Deptford victualling yard for HM ships – were laden with sugar presumably. Better kept in our old kit bag. Not sure what else would, um, fly.