The next time you're cracking open your favorite canned dinner staple, give Napoleon Bonaparte a little thank you.

The year 1795 is one that foodies might not pay much attention to, but perhaps they should. It was then that the first major steps were taken to preserve food that didn’t involve having to smoke, salt, pickle or dry it to the point where it was nourishment in name only. Natural flavor? Bah, humbug. French general Napoleon Bonaparte wanted to feed his military forces something not only fresh but could last – a necessity when you had troops spread across several countries at the same time like the French did.

It was Peter Durand, a British merchant, who in 1810 received the first patent for preserving fresh food in tin cans. The idea took off, and within a few years you could buy canned oysters, meat, fruit and vegetables in New York City. Improvements have been made to the basic canning principle over time, but the general mantra has always remained the same: man can not live on salted foodstuffs alone.

Story by Jay Moon