The little known history of frozen food

Grocery by Michael RuhlmanMichael Ruhlman recently released a new book called Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America. The book offers commentary on America’s relationship with its food and investigates the overlooked source of so much of it –  the grocery store. The modern chain grocery store is such an ubiquitous part of the average American’s life, yet most of us don’t know that much about how the food that ends up there is sourced, produced, or distributed. 

Wired has released an excerpt from Grocery that focuses on the birth of the frozen food industry, which can be traced to one man: Charles Birdseye. 

Birdseye was certainly not the first person to freeze food to prevent spoilage, but his keen interest and dedication to the subject resulted in tremendous improvements to the freezing process. He can be credited with introducing not only modern packaged frozen foods, but also to bringing about waterproof cellophane packaging and encouraging the growth of large-scale industrial farming. 

Here’s a snippet from the linked article: “Frozen food had been around forever in frigid climes, but it had also made inroads into America as ice became plentiful. The quality of frozen food, however, was terrible. Most of it was frozen in bulk portions, whether whole sides of beef or great blocks of strawberries. The first patent for freezing fish was given in 1862. But because the quality was so bad, frozen food was largely frowned upon.

“Then Birdseye recalled a traditional method he’d learned from watching the Inuit: fast freezing. “My subconscious suddenly told me that perishable food could be kept perfectly preserved in the same way I had kept them in Labrador-by quick freezing!” Read the full excerpt at Wired

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