Unlabeled cans kept family guessing

Susan Manzke
Unlabeled food containers yielded this surprise concoction of sausage soup.

I’ve been fighting a rotten cold for a week. Each day I’m a bit better, but it will be a few more days before I’m myself again.

Soup seems to be the best food at a time like this. Since I didn’t feel like making a fresh pot, I headed to my freezer to look for stored leftovers.

Today I brought up two frozen containers of food. I don’t know exactly what I have. I’ll only know what is for lunch until after these bricks of ice are thawed. I might be in for a big surprise today.

You’d think that I would have learned a lesson about marking my leftover containers. Too often I’m in a hurry and figure that I’d remember what I set in the freezer. I did recognize spaghetti because the noodles were visible. These two containers still have me guessing.

This brought other memories to mind.

For almost twenty years, Bob worked for Seymour Canning Company. In the 1980s, things were really tough on the farm. To get our food budget to stretch, Bob brought home canned vegetables. He got a bargain price on the cans because some were dented, and some were missing labels—more surprise packages.

The missing labels had me guessing. When it was time to make supper, it all depended on what can I happened to open.

If Bob was home, he could read the stamped code and tell me if I had green beans, or mixed vegetables, or beets—but he wasn’t always near at hand, so soups ended up with beans instead of corn.

There’s still an earlier story about food surprises in my life.

When I was a kid, things were tough too. I don’t think I knew we were poor. Our whole country neighborhood had to pinch pennies to keep going.

There was a time when Dad came home with a case of mixed cans. Again, some were dented, and none had labels.

No one knew how to read the stamp on the bottom of the cans, so it really was an adventure figuring out what we had.

We’d pick out a can from the box, shake it and listen to hear if it sloshed around. We’d then take guesses as to what we expected to find. These cans could have been anything from Chef Boyardee Ravioli or baked beans.

One day, no one even came close to guessing correctly. When Dad opened the can he had a can of dog food—good thing we had a dog.

I’m going to make my lunch now and microwave one of my frozen surprises. It turned out to be a surprise even as I ate it. The soup contains sausage, potatoes, and sauerkraut beside green bits of zucchini. I don’t remember making it, but it is yummy. The other is a tomato soup.

Susan is surrounded by most of her grandchildren, from left, Emma, Ethan, Eli, Arianna, Caleb, Aryana, Wyatt and Harrison.

I haven’t finished sending Christmas cards. If you were nice enough to send me a holiday greeting, I am working hard to get a card to you, but this rotten cold has slowed me down. Sorry, your card may come in January.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;;