Food and Freedom


Maybe he awoke with the sun, as was his routine when there was enough light to read his clock. Maybe he then settled into a chair at a nearby table, where he began to tend to his correspondence—something that produced around 20,000 letters over the course of his life.

A lot was on the mind of Thomas Jefferson that mild July fourth morning.
And as he looked out his window upon the Philadelphia landscape pondering what was to be accomplished that day, surely breakfast was next on his to-do list.


Have you ever thought about the food of our forefathers?
What they ate, how they ate, and maybe most importantly (from a packaging perspective), how they stored their food so they could eat.

For Jefferson, he likely enjoyed a breakfast that consisted of tea, coffee, cornbread, cold ham, and butter. Sounds simple enough, right?

Although Thomas Jefferson was most certainly in a different class, there was no escaping the fact that he nor anyone else in 1776 had any kind of refrigeration or colonial Tupperware to keep their food fresh (and safe) for consumption.

In the 18th century, most households spent the vast majority of their time preserving foods for long-term storage—in short . . . to survive another year.

Canning wasn’t a reality at that time (Nicolas Appert began experimenting in the late 1700s), so foods were stored in various ways using inventive methods.

Chickens and small game could be consumed year-round since they could be eaten in a meal or two. But when it came to other foods, early packaging and storage methods were employed.

For the meat of larger animals (cow and pig), butchering was put off until the colder months since warmer temperatures would cause spoilage within a few days. The meat would be salted, smoked, brined, and even potted (cooked meat packed tightly in an earthen jar and sealed with a thick layer of butter, lard, or even rendered beef fat).

Drying, pickling, and cold storage (in a root cellar or basement) was reserved for eggs, cheeses, fruits, and veggies.

While this post hasn’t plumbed the depths of colonial food storage and early American fare, doesn’t it make you thankful for the innovations in storage and packaging? Consider the freedom we now have to store our foods and beverages quite easily.


Jefferson, satisfied with his breakfast and eager to get to the important duties of his day, rose from the table. Maybe he downed the last sip of cooling coffee to wash down the final bite of cornbread. Patting his pockets to make sure his instruments, notebook, and pencil were on hand, he stepped out into the morning bustle and strolled down the lane, never giving thought to salting, pickling, or potting. He had other things on his mind.

While our predecessors performed the tedious tasks of food storage and preservation to survive another year, we can’t forget the heritage and flavor they have given us and that we freely enjoy in our modern world.

And as we reflect on this July fourth, may we also never forget the hardships and struggles our forefathers endured in order to pave the way for our freedom.

Interested in learning more about how packaging has advanced throughout the years? Head over to our site for more information.

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