Tuesday 04 November 1997
There are many ways to get to know someone, but one of the best is to have a good look at their tinned food cupboard. I first became aware of this years ago, when I was at university and living in a house that had been broken up into flats. One of my neighbours was adamant that I should eat dinner with him and so, finally, I agreed.
I should have realised something was amiss when I saw boxes of tinned food in the hallway. The front room was also lined with tins and the dining- area wasn't lacking in cylindrical metal objects, either.
Dinner was, needless to say, tinned. Over this he explained that the end of the world was coming, and that he was stocking up because he was a Chosen One. He said that I, too, could be chosen if I would marry him. Of course, he'd had to ask several other women as well because we would have to repopulate in a hurry. I looked at him over the peas and realised that a man with tins in his hall is to be avoided at all costs.
I think of this about once a year, when it is time to make pumpkin pie. This involves buying a tin of pumpkin and waiting for inspiration to strike. Usually it never does, and the next year I have to try and retrieve it. This year I had to push aside five cans of kidney beans (you never know when you might want to make chilli) and at least 10 tins of tomatoes (you never know when you might run out). Nearer the back was the tin of snails that seemed like a good idea about seven years ago, and the Thai coconut milk that was best before February 1997.
Everyone has a problem tin area (though thankfully not as many as the Chosen One). For starters, despite the fact that we eat from the fridge and the freezer, we all buy them. Why? Because we have a designated tin cupboard? Because we are all secret hoarders? Because rationing could happen again? And, even weirder, every week we buy the same tins. One friend admits to compulsive mixed bean buying, though she only eats one tin a year. Then there are the comfort tins - the soup for when we get sick, the cling peaches for when we lose our tastebuds, the sweet condensed milk for those nights when chocolate alone will not do. Finally there are the tins that we do not remember buying and that may, in fact, have been placed there by aliens.
"I don't know where this tin of apple segments from South Africa has come from," frowned a friend. Nor do I, but I know a man who might.
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