A client/friend shared this story with me about how frozen food got its start by Elizabeth Nix.
From packages of waffles to bags of peas, the myriad items found in the frozen-food section of grocery stores today owe their existence, in part, to Clarence Birdseye, who in the 1920s developed a quick-freezing process that launched the modern frozen-food industry.
Between 1912 and 1917, Birdseye, a Brooklyn native, lived in chilly Labrador, Canada, where he worked briefly on a hospital ship before started a fox-breeding venture. It was during this period that he learned about the customs of the indigenous Inuit, who would go ice fishing and then let their catch immediately freeze in the frigid air. When this frozen fish, which was left out in the cold, eventually was cooked, it tasted fresh.
After returning to America, Birdseye took a job in 1920 with a lobbying group for commercial fisherman. In this role, he discovered that large amounts of freshly caught fish spoiled before making it to stores. Recalling the flash freezing he’d done in Labrador, Birdseye believed he could apply this concept to commercially frozen food and in 1923 founded a frozen-fish company in New York.
At the time, commercially frozen food had been available for half a century; however, it was unpopular with consumers because it lost its flavor and texture when thawed (it was being frozen too slowly, causing large ice crystals to form, which adversely affected the food’s cellular structure).
Birdseye’s company quickly ran out of money, but in the mid-1920s he relocated to Gloucester, Massachusetts, a center of the fishing industry, and established a new business, General Seafoods. He developed equipment and packaging and patented his freezing process; however, he continued to face a number of hurdles, including a lack of insulated vehicles to transport his products to stores and the fact that many retailers didn’t have sufficiently refrigerated display cases.
Frozen food still took time to catch on. Large numbers of Americans first tasted frozen food in the 1940s, during World War II, when a shortage of tin resulted in a dearth of canned goods, according to Birdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man by Mark Kurlansky. Even more significant, notes Kurlansky, was the fact that while men were off fighting, women took jobs outside the home, prompting them to seek faster ways to fix meals.
Along with the growth of supermarkets and advancements in freezing and refrigeration, frozen foods—including newly-created TV dinners—had become by the 1950s a staple of the American diet. Today the global frozen food industry is valued in the neighborhood of a quarter-trillion dollars.
Action Line: Food security for your family requires a mix of food types, storage approaches, and as much variety as you can afford to increase the health benefits of your larder. And no matter how much food you store, it’s worth nothing if you don’t have enough emergency water storage.
P.S. You can always supplement your food supply by harvesting it yourself in the wild.
One of the greatest things about winter is you can dream about summer. After a few days of warm(er) temps here in New England, we’re seeing some of the snow melt. Quite a bit, actually, has already melted in Newport, RI, except for those stubborn piles of petrified snow—not very pretty. I’m not sure it can be called snow. It’s more like groups of fossils.
In speaking with you, most of you are between rounds one and two of the vaccine, not getting it at all, or already done with two rounds—and you’re all itchin’ to get out. It’s a common theme where you’re looking to move freely about your country. We’re almost there.
But, until we are, we can continue to dream about things we love to do, like boating, for example. I’ve said this before, the best time to own a boat is the winter—because you can’t see the monthly bills. But it’s also true that right about now, I love thinking about boating just like I love thinking about skiing in the summer. I don’t know why. I just do. Anticipation?
You can imagine the fun I had talking boating with a client last week. We talked about the fishing grounds off San Francisco and how he was watching an episode of Capt. Q., Yacht Hunter, filmed in Newport. If you want to learn how to buy a boat, check it out, you won’t be disappointed (or read my series here).
How about ice fishing? There’s still time. I have some clients who tell me how much fun it is—think tailgate party, while another told me it’s for fools and children. I haven’t been, so I don’t know what I’m missing, but there’s a wonderful article this week in the WSJ titled “You Should Go Ice Fishing. Here’s Why” from Jason Gay, who wrote:
It was the week after the week after the Super Bowl, a gloomy spot on the sports calendar, and back at home, my 7-year-old son, Jesse, was climbing the walls with pandemic-era boredom. So was I. We decided to bundle up and head north for a different rush of sporting excitement:
Yeah. At the risk of losing my remaining New England and Wisconsin credibility, until a few days ago, I’d never been ice fishing. I knew about ice fishing—I knew about the tiny shacks equipped with bucket chairs, heaters and Packers-Badgers talk on the radio, and I knew about the stubby fishing rods and the winter fever for bass, perch, trout, crappie, bluegill, pike, walleye and so on, but I’d never actually, you know, tried it.
Ice fishing seemed like one of those intriguing life ideas I wouldn’t ever get around to doing, like law school, or getting a Van Halen tattoo.
Anyway, Covid is almost in our rearview mirror. The Texas deep freeze is almost a memory (Not a good one). Just wait until the Great Reset crowd sees the pent-up frustration. You can’t tell people there’s no heat because everything froze. What is that? Stay tuned, this should be fun.
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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