WriterAnnabelle LettenWriterMilly Ahlquist
Browse by tag
Making every meal count
In many ways and at many points in our evolution, natural preservation has been the key to human preservation. During The Second World War, eggs and milk were rationed, and their powdered alternatives offered because they had a far longer shelf-life. In the same way salted beef and pork were presented as corned beef and spam - a form of salted ham.
These alternatives preserved themselves in a variety of ways. Powdered eggs and milk are made by rapidly drying out the fresh produce. This process is also known as dehydration, and is today used for making instant coffee and stock cubes. While powdered eggs and milk were scorned by many, they contained the same essential nutrients as their fresh counterparts, at a time when they were not readily available. In fact an adult was rationed to one fresh egg per week. Powdered eggs could be added to cakes and bakes in powdered form, or rehydrated with water to be used in liquid form.
Freezing prevents microorganisms from accessing moisture in food, which keeps perishables fresh for longer. Subterranean icehouses can be traced back to medieval times and were a popular addition to estates of the wealthy during the eighteenth century when they were used to provide cool storage for most of the year. Up until around the 1950s, ice was imported into the UK from Scandinavia, creating a lucrative trade for entrepreneurs.
The first fridge
In fact, the introduction of the first practical, domestic refrigerators in the twentieth century threatened the lucrative ice shipping business to such an extent that ice companies spread rumours they were unsafe. The public were reluctant to leave behind their iceboxes - non-mechanical cold closets packed with ice - but by the 1940s, the domestic refrigerator had mostly been embraced by consumers who delighted in their practicality and ease of use.
The development of safe synthetics
Of course, there were limitations to what could and couldn’t be preserved and for how long until scientists introduced parabens in the 1930s. These non-toxic, odourless, colourless, and inexpensive chemical preservatives revolutionised the industry because products that once had a shelf life of months could be stored for years, which drastically reduced wastage. Parabens are still widely used today because of their reliability, non-toxic nature and long history of safe use.