Tin Can Cook by Jack Monroe

Unusually, I got the Kindle version of Tin Can Cook. I tend to have my phone handy when cooking so I figured it would be appropriate. So far, it’s introduced me to the joys of tinned potatoes (9/10 most of a fresh bag will end up in the compost before we use it).

FYI, if you want to start composting, this site does cheap, subsidised bins – https://getcomposting.com

I have a real soft spot for Jack Monroe, for a very practical reason. The recipes on the Cooking on a Bootstrap website helped me when I was seriously struggling financially. Put it this way; I wasn’t visiting a food bank, but maybe I should have been.

Tins and Snobbery

Tins symbolise poverty and austerity in a way bemoaned by the (genuinely wonderful and hilarious) India Knight in her Thrift Book. However both authors agree that the obsession with fancy ingredients has to stop. Indeed, Jack wrote the book – the first focusing on canned food recipes since 1939 – in part as a dig at food snobbery and elitism. Jack has experienced real, down to the wire poverty, and used food banks for six months.

Jack relates cooking a gourmet meal at a 5 star hotel entirely from tins – and the outrage of one diner, who was convinced canned food would kill him. The same canned food he probably donates every Harvest Festival, to those less fortunate. Ironically, the pop up restaurant Tincan recently served up expensive canned fish in Soho, with artisanal bread and a wink.

Health

Some people worry about health concerns when it comes to tinned food; BPA, botulism, cancer. There are extensive studies into BPA (Bisphenol A). However the UK’s Food Standards Agency has found that the levels of BPA in packaging is not harmful to human health. Additionally, in 2018, Packaging Digest reported that 90% of canned foods no longer used Bisphenol A at all.

Botulism is a bacterial issue that arises from improperly canned / preserved food. So long as you avoid cans with extremely severe dents you should be fine. It is generally better if you use half a tin to store the leftovers in a tupperware and recycle the tin.

In general, the idea that canned foods increase your risk is cancer is a myth. Canned and frozen vegetables, for example, can retain more nutrients than fresh foods that have lost vitamins during the transport process. While the tabloids may screech about it, the majority of tinned foods are fine. Just be careful to check for added salt and sugar, and pick juice over syrup for fruits. The BBC has a good guide to tinned food here.

Giving Back

Oddly enough, Monroe’s goal of writing cookbooks using cheap ingredients frequently gets criticism. For example, about how her book extolling the virtues of cheap food costs money. To counter this, you can access many of their tinned food recipes online here.

And if you’re doing ok at the moment, you can contribute to a GoFundMe, aimed at buying copies of the cook book for food banks.

So far this fundraiser has smashed it out of the park, and Heinz have kindly agreed to donate 10,000 cans for free to the project, which will make the money go even further.

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