A piece for The Guardian on self-heating food
So there are these tins that heat themselves up. HotCan. “No microwave. No kettle,” they seem to scold from the label. They’ve been around for 30 years but the company has just started to promote them more intensively: rebranding the tins, opening a new factory, releasing new flavours and so on.
There’s something almost alchemical about them. The tins are fixed in thick, insulated pouches. You take the plastic lid off and there’s a sort of pointy Allen key inside, which you use to pierce three little holes in the insulation surrounding the tin. Then you wait a couple of minutes, an ominous bubbling begins, steam starts to hiss from the holes, and you panic the can is about to explode and shower you in shrapnel and lava. So you gingerly reread the label through slitted fingers, and it tells you you should have opened the tin first. You hold it at terrified arm’s length like a bomb you’re trying to defuse, lift its ringpull with a spoon, and give everything another 10 minutes to warm through. Or at least that was my experience.
They come in seven inescapably tinny flavours such as beans with meatballs, chicken curry with rice and cheese ravioli in tomato sauce. I had “spicy beef pasta” (at 8 o’clock in the morning – the things you’ll do to deadline). The contents reached 52C according to my kitchen thermometer: emphatically tepid, and best described as a brown, lumpen, heavily spiced sludge. HotCan also sent me “bangers & beanz” but, since that tin didn’t heat properly and its sausages were shrivelled like salted snails, you’ll forgive me if I merely tasted it with my eyes. In all, they’re better than Pot Noodles, in the way that a broken finger is better than a broken arm.