Want a sandwich? Don’t buy a plank of sushi-grade tuna.
As foodies, we’re trained to always prefer fresh and local, and we’ll go out of our way to purchase uncanned anything. But canning as a means of preservation still has its uses, and it’s best not to throw the brined or pickled baby out with the bathwater. Here are five foods that taste better canned or bottled.
1. Tuna — A tuna sandwich with plenty of mayo on toast with a pickle on the side is an iconic American food. Try making a tuna melt with bluefin! (On second thought, don’t.) Caveat: Even the albacore and skipjack found in Bumble Bee cans may be in danger of being overfished.
2. Spinach — In olden days, fresh spinach could only be enjoyed for a few weeks in late summer and early autumn, and all you could get was the canned variety for the rest of the year. People were grateful to have it, and it was used in all sorts of recipes. The oxalic flavor comes to the fore, and it can be addictive. Greek spanakopita tastes great with canned spinach, for example. And if it was good enough for Popeye …
3. Olives — Whether black, green, red, or some color in between, olives must be brined to even be edible, and canning or jarring them guarantees long brining and convenience. Moreover, pitted and canned black olives have a special savor that goes well in sauce, or for eating as a snack. Bottled green olives are indispensable to many tapas. Thanksgiving without canned black olives on the relish tray? A glum holiday.
2. Spam — Spam, deviled ham, and other potted meat products just wouldn’t taste the same without the can. Millions crave Spam worldwide, and there is no “fresh” equivalent. Hawaii and Hong Kong without Spam are virtually unimaginable.
And, our number one canned-food obsession?
1. Tomato Soup — Ever wonder why you virtually never see tomato soup in bistros? Everyone loves tomatoes. You can find gazpacho anywhere, so why not plain tomato soup? With a toasted cheese, there’s nothing better. The reason, my friends, is that no one dares compete with canned tomato soup for its smoothness, distinctive flavor, and digestibility. And besides, without canned tomato soup, Andy Warhol wouldn’t exist.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 8, 2011