Clarence Birdseye, the father of frozen foods

Our subject for today is frozen foods. According to the Today in Science History website, it was on this day, 6 March 1930, that General Foods first started selling individually packaged frozen foods. Called ‘Birds Eye Frosted Foods’, the idea came from a guy called Clarence Birdseye, who started offering frozen food for sale to the public in 1929, after seeing people thawing and eating frozen fish during a visit to Canada.

Within the first 2 months, sales of the Birds Eye line of frozen foods increased significantly, prompting the start of a huge retail frozen foods industry.

Frozen foods - convenient and practical, and a big part of many daily diets worldwide.(© All Rights Reserved)
Frozen foods – convenient and practical, and a big part of many daily diets worldwide.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Freezing is one of the easiest ways of preserving food for future use, by either killing or inhibiting pathogens that cause food spoilage. It is, however, not as effective as high-temperature treatments since less of the harmful pathogens are killed, and those that are only inhibited are likely to again become active once the frozen foods are thawed. Some spoilage processes are also only slowed down and not stopped, and so frozen foods can typically only be kept for a limited time, particularly in some domestic freezers which may not maintain food at low enough temperatures. Long term storage apparently requires temperatures of 0 °F (-18 °C) or lower. Of course boiling and then freezing food greatly increases the effectiveness of the preservation.

As far as nutritional value is concerned, some vitamin loss is said to occur during freezing, mainly Vitamin C, but also, to a much lesser extent, Vitamins B1, B2 and A.

Despite its limitations, freezing remains one of the most widely used preservation techniques, with frozen pre-cooked meals counting among the most popular products. Its convenience and practical value has made the frozen foods industry a massive multi-national, multi-million dollar industry.

So next time you grab a quick frozen meal from the freezer, think about good old Clarence Birdseye and the Canadians with their frozen fish, who started it all back in the early part of the 20th century.

Take time out to visit a lighthouse on Lighthouse Day

Today is Lighthouse Day, created to commemorate the day in 1789 when US Congress approved an Act for the establishment and support of lighthouses, beacons, buoys and public piers.

While this is a US commemoration, it’s surely reason enough to celebrate the important role fulfilled by lighthouses the world over, marking treacherous coastlines, hazardous shoals, reefs and safe entries to harbors.

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The Cape Reinga Lighthouse, situated in the Northland region of New Zealand, was built in 1941, replacing an older lighthouse dating back to 1879, that used to be situated on the nearby Motuopao Island. Initially a manned lighthouse, it was fully automated by 1987, and the lighthouse keeper staff were withdrawn. It has since been remotely monitored from Wellington.
An interesting feature of the section of ocean that this lighthouse watches over, is that it marks the point where the Tasman Sea from the west meets the Pacific Ocean coming from the east. From the lighthouse, the line where the mighty waters clash is clearly visible, making it quite a special place. According to Māori legend this is the meeting place of the male Te Moana-a-Rehua, ‘the sea of Rehua’ with the female Te Tai-o-Whitirea, ‘the sea of Whitirea’, and also the place where the spirits of the dead descend to the underworld to return to their traditional homeland of Hawaiki.

Many lighthouses have fallen into disuse due to high maintenance costs and the emergence of new electronic navigation systems. The aim of Lighthouse Day is to focus attention on these imposing landmarks from our past, and to create awareness about local, national and international societies and organisations making an effort to preserve lighthouses for future generations.

Lighthouses traditionally symbolise safety, stability and truth, and as such their preservation holds symbolic importance for mankind. Go on, pay a visit to your nearest lighthouse and take time to appreciate its grandeur. And don’t forget to take some photos – lighthouses are famously photogenic entities!