You Might Be from the South If You Consider These Canned Foods a Memorable Snack

Long live the beanie weenie memories.

You Might Be from the South If You Consider These Canned Foods a Memorable Snack
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Beanie Weenies, potted meat, and Vienna sausages—for many of us of a certain age, these are the essential and formative canned, ready-to-eat convenience foods from our childhood. They were the snacks and provisions we associate with outdoor excursions, fishing trips, camp outs, and time with a granddaddy or other beloved family member who fed us grab-and-go items from country stores, filling stations, and bait shacks. We remember them as treats enjoyed away from home, which was a big part of what made them special. The air of adventure was the special sauce, although we also doused our meaty snacks with hot sauce, vinegar, and yellow mustard.

Only a generation or so back, convenience foods were uncommon. In the days before pull tabs, a can of something cranked open with a gadget that dangled off a key ring, a multi-tool pocketknife, or a sharp P-38 from a mess kit was auspicious and awe-inspiring from the get-go. A tin that required the careful twisting of a tiny slotted metal key to unwind a sealing strip was an act of artistry and patience. You can't dig in until you get in.

Digging in required nothing but a spoon, or even better, a spork, or determined slurping straight from the can when we forgot to pack one. We didn't need plates, although we appreciated the level surface of a saltine cracker, which could also serve a spoon's purpose. Sleeves and shirttails were napkins enough for the occasion. Rather than setting the table, we sat on the fishing dock or lowered tailgate.

These canned delicacies were not delicate. They were (and are) hearty and meaty, sometimes all meat, or a combo of meat and protein-rich beans. They'll stick to your ribs far longer than a pack of chips or handful of candy. Let's review the line-up.

Beanie Weenies are canned beans and franks (aka wieners or hotdogs) in a mild sauce, a type of pork and beans. This product has been around for a long time. Canned beans were among the first canned convenience foods in the United States, dating back to the Civil War.

Potted meat is a smooth spread that some say could pass for pate if presented on a charcuterie board instead of dipped from a little tin can. It's the country cousin to rillettes and homemade potted meat (or seafood) where cooked and spiced meat shreds or purees are packed into crocks or terrines and sealed with fat.

Vienna sausages are a simplified version of a traditional German sausage made from finely ground, moist meat packed into slender casings. Vienna sausages are short enough to stand upright in their little can. They are snuggly packed, too, so to pry out the first one is a skill. To be able to do it with the tip of a pocket knife without breaking off the end of the sausage is an acquired skill. Many people were nearly grown before they realized that based on spelling alone, the word vienna is the same as Vienna, the capital of Austria. (The word Wiener is German for Viennese.) But no one says it that way. We all know it's vi-ee-nuh or vi-ee-nee.

Some of us still pick up these items for outdoor adventures. Others of us don't eat them anymore, or not often, yet they never fail to trigger our memories. When we share these snacks with the next generation, we're not just opening a can of something, we're passing along our family stories.

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