Saints Preserve Us

Preserving is like government surveillance. Once you start looking for it, you start seeing it everywhere: at the mall, at the corner bar, in your house, at work, at the ball game, your daughter’s locker at school, on a hike, a car trip, a picnic, a trip to the moon. It’s everywhere man.

Just about everything we eat is a product of preservation in one form or another. Just think about it: how many foods do we actually eat 100% fresh off the tree? Out of the ground? Out of the cow? On the hunting trail? For eveything else, we rely on preservation.

Jam is preservation. A sack of flour is preservation. Cheese is preservation. Wine is preservation. Beef jerky is preservation. Energy bars are preservation, pickles are preservation, Cheetos are preservation, that five year-old can of baked beans in your cupboard is preservation. Granulated sugar, dried peas, boxes of cereal, dried sausages, beer, whiskey, peppermint schnapps, everything in your refrigerator, everything in your freezer, that crumpled packet of oyster crackers in your desk at work…a fella could go nuts (which are also preservation).

Preservation is, simply, defeating the process of spoilage in all its myriad forms. And what is spoilage other than lower forms of life trying to horn in on a hard-earned meal? (Insert easy in-law joke here).

And so we must defeat them. We could kill them, but the only sure-fire ways to do that are by poisoning or boiling them, and boiled Ho-Ho’s taste like crap. No, the most efficient way to keep the microbes at bay is to let them exist, but deprive them of the various things they need to grow and proliferate. Sure, oxygen. Yes, food. OK, temperature. But best of all that one special thing than all life on this Earth depends on to survive: water.

And thus we have the common denominator that the most historically successful methods of preservation share: they deprive microbial life of water. Drying does it of course. You can also achieve the same effect with smoke and salt. But I bet you didn’t know that sugar works just as well. Oh yes, my friends, in high enough concentrations sugar is every bit as deadly to a microbe as salt. And thus we have the primary bug-killing mechanism behind jam. More on how all this fun stuff works as the day goes on.

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