Napoleon Bonaparte's major contribution to the culinary arts - preserved food
Napoleon Bonaparte's name is more likely to conjure the image of a man commanding his troops than of one concerned with the culinary arts, but when the French government offered a prize of 12,000 francs to the person who could develop an effective method for preserving food, Napoleon took his place in culinary history.
As the French army suffered more casualties from scurvy, malnutrition and starvation than from enemy muskets, Napoleon recognized the need to provide preserved food for his troops as they advanced into Russia during the Napoleonic Wars.
Fortunately, Nicholas Appert, a candy-maker, brewer and baker, had the idea to preserve food in bottles, in the same manner as wine. After experimenting with different methods for 14 years, he discovered that food did not spoil if it was packed in bottles, corked and submerged in boiling water. Napoleon, pleased to have a secret weapon that he thought would help him to defeat his enemies, personally awarded Appert the winning prize in 1809.
Realizing that it would be more practical to preserve food in metal rather than glass, British inventor Peter Durand received a patent for creating a cylindrical canister made out of iron coated with tin. Interestingly enough, the can opener wasn't invented until 1858. In the meantime, soldiers used knives, bayonets or even rocks to open their rations.
|L'Art de Conserver, the book written by Nicholas Appert describing the method of sterilization, which is known as "appertisation" in French.|
If you're interested in food, the Alimentarium in Vevey is a fascinating place to spend a couple of hours. While talking with one of the museum guides about Nicholas Appert's contribution to food preservation, she told me that she was surprised that most of the children who come to the museum don't know the season for fruits grown in Switzerland. I guess that's to be expected since our global supply chain allows us to buy strawberries in January and oranges in July.
|Preserved strawberries, pears, cherries, raspberries and abricots. Are you smarter than a 7 year old?|
See if you can put them in the order that they appear in Switzerland.
Writing this post reminded me of Barbara Kingsolver's entertaining book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, in which she recounts the story of her family's resolution to grow their food themselves or to buy it locally for an entire year.
Alimentarium - Food Museum