It is exactly 200 years since Nicolas Appert, a Frenchman, invented the process of boîte de conserve: conserving food by heat sterilisation before placing it in a hermetically sealed container (originally glass bottles, but more recently in metal boxes). He then went on to create the first conserving factory in the World. The invention changed the lives of so many people, including sailors for whom the invention meant less chance of scurvy and other maritime ailments.
How many of us today can deny the contribution that the humble “boîte” makes to our own lives, always there in the cupboard when we need a snack or a meal in a hurry and do not have the time to shop or cook? Pretty much anything is available, from the most humble ingredient to the more exotic, and with a range of prices too!
My wife and I have become rather fond of Conserverie La Belle Iloise, founded in the 1920″s, and based in Quiberon with outlets all over the region – we visit La Turballe, Le Croisic, and Le Pouliguen for our regular “fix”. They have a superb and constantly evolving range of high-quality seafood-based conserves, along with recipes, including Soupe de poissons, various chowders, mackerel, and lentil salads, as well as the traditional mackerel in Muscadet and Sardines in olive oil. They also sell tinned sardines that need to be warmed up: “Les sardines chaudes”. They come in various flavours such as “Beurre de Baratte”, “À la Nantaise” (with Muscadet), “Tomate et Pistou”, “Oriental spices” and finally “Sarrazin et Beurre de Baratte” (buckwheat). Absolutely delicious! The shops generally have a few taster products to try. I usually grumble when I see the price, and you mostly need to buy in packs of at least 3, but. as my lovely wife reminds me, I have invariably forgotten about this when it is served up for lunch.
Joyeux anniversaire to the (not so humble) boîte de conserve, and here’s to the next 200 years! Cheers!