Many, many years ago I was working night shift at the sleep lab with my late best friend Jan. I was feeling a bit hungry so I pulled out a can of Vienna sausages. I’m pretty sure she had convinced me that carbs were the devil and we should both be eating more protein, so this was my lame attempt at doing so. “You like those?” she asked. “Sure, I’ve eaten them since I was a kid. Don’t you like them?”I replied. “I’ve never been a fan of potted meat”, she said. Potted meat? Was that what I was eating? At that point I wasn’t sure, but I was sure of one thing. I suddenly felt self-conscious.
On another occasion, the subject of Vienna sausages came up, and I don’t recall the exact context, but I do remember the exact sentence uttered by my husband Tom. “You’re not feeding that to my kid.” Wow. That was harsh! Clearly, after those two comments I felt stung, and my consumption of Vienna sausages and the like was curtailed, but I’ve decided that years later, I will revisit some of these once popular pantry staples with my older more sophisticated palate to see how I feel about them now.
First up, Vienna sausages! These little guys have been around since the early 1900’s in the US, but evolved into the current iteration sometime in the 1950’s. Consumption peaked during my childhood. In my memory, I could conjure up exactly what these little guys tasted like, and after cracking open the can the look and smell of them was what I remembered. As for the taste? I felt like they weren’t unpleasant, but maybe not as good as I remembered in my youth. Tom still wasn’t tasting them at all, but my son Ryan is home from university, so since he was the object of the “You’re not feeding that to my son” sentence, and he is of legal age, I thought I would get his input. “I don’t know if I like it, or I hate it.” That is how Ryan chose to describe his reaction. He did clarify by saying that he felt neutral about the taste, but found the texture “extremely weird”.
Next up, Underwood Deviled Ham. I remember the commercials for this product on TV back in the 1970’s, but had no idea this product had been manufactured since 1868. I ate many a sandwich with this deviled ham in the 70’s and 80’s, but how would I feel about it now? It wasn’t my favorite, but it was edible. Tom quite liked it and Ryan agrees with him.
After the Underwood, we cracked open a can of corned beef. The familiar trapezoidal can was patented by Libby in 1875. Ah yes, the can that features a special little key. It had been decades since I had used a little key to open a can of food, and I did remember that if you mess this up and break the tab, you’re screwed. I experienced a mixture of fun and pressure using the old fashioned method and am proud to announce that I was successful in my endeavor. I recall ordering an omelet featuring canned corned beef at a local restaurant a few years back, and I remember thinking it wasn’t as good as I expected it to be. How would I feel about a sandwich of cold canned corned beef? Well, it was awful. How could I have eaten some of this stuff as a kid and been perfectly happy about it? Why didn’t I screw up opening the can? I would have been better off. Tom on the other hand, grew up around the corner from and worked as a teen in a deli. He hadn’t grown up eating canned corned beef. Ironically, he was not as adverse to the corned beef sandwich as I was. We spared Ryan this experience. See what great parents we are?
I also bought a can of Spam for this undertaking, but quite frankly, right now I can’t bring myself to crack open another can of meat. I’m spent! I have taken note that I have until January 2025 to collect some of my favorite Monty Python jokes and work up the courage to open and consume the Spam.