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42-year-old tin of sardines up for sale

PUBLISHED: 07:42 10 July 2009 | UPDATED: 10:42 06 July 2010

Peter Carroll's 42 year old sardine tin which will be auctioned, being held by his wife Jackie

Peter Carroll's 42 year old sardine tin which will be auctioned, being held by his wife Jackie

Most of us have the odd out-of-date tin or packet of food in our kitchen cupboards.

A week here, a month there, or possibly even a year or two might be typical, but a Norwich woman has a tin of sardines at least 42 years old - and it's up for sale.

Most of us have the odd out-of-date tin or packet of food in our kitchen cupboards.

A week here, a month there, or possibly even a year or two might be typical, but a Norwich woman has a tin of sardines at least 42 years old - and it's up for sale.

The tin of sardines in oil has been in Jackie Carroll's kitchen ever since her late husband Peter brought it home from the hotel he managed, but is set to go under the hammer in Norwich tomorrow ,

It dates from a time when smart hotels would have an hors d'ouevres trolley containing 15 or 16 dishes, usually including sardines.

The Mari Cris-brand tin is red and bears two pictures of fishermen in sou' westers: one of them hauling in their nets, and another of them unloading trays of sardines from their boat.

The rusting tin is marked in both imperial and metric weights of 1lb 9oz and 750g.

Mrs Carroll, of Trinity Street, said her husband already had it when they met in 1967 while he was manager of The George Hotel in Stamford, Lincolnshire.

“I think he probably had it from his previous job in Rugby. He said he had kept it because that size of tin was being discontinued,” she said.

The tin travelled with the family up and down the country as they moved between jobs in the catering industry: to the Wirral, Sussex and, ultimately, Norwich, where Mr Carroll managed The Strangers' Club in Elm Hill for seven years.

“I used to say 'Come on, this is really rusty - why don't we chuck them out?' but he would say 'No, you're not to,'” said Mrs Carroll, 67.

“I used to worry the tin would blow up in my kitchen cupboard. I said 'Why don't we open it?' but he would say 'No, they don't make that size any more. It'll be worth something one day.'”

Dr Sandra Stringer of the Institute of Food Research at Norwich Research Park said: “If the can is still intact, in one piece and not corroded, the food inside can be eaten, although the texture and colours may have broken down. But if it's rusty I really wouldn't risk it.”

The tin is being sold by Blyth & Co of Lothian Street, along with a table-top decorative white metal and glass “galloping sardine” trolley, given to the Carrolls as a leaving gift by staff at The Roebuck in Wych Cross, Sussex. It is expected to fetch between £20 and £30.

“Although I have never sold a tin of sardines at auction before, advertising ephemera is very popular and I am sure someone will be pleased to add this unusual lot to their collection,” said Tim Blyth, managing director.

Mr Carroll died last September, aged 73. Mrs Carroll said: “He's probably up there, having a good laugh. He was always suggesting we sell some things at auction to pay for a cruise, but this would probably only pay for a cruise up the river at Horning.”

The word sardine is an imprecise term referring to any number of small, silvery saltwater fish related to the herring and found throughout the world. Fish labelled as sardines include sprats, brisling and pilchards.

Frequently caught off the Mediterranean coast and eaten in abundance in Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy and Morocco, sardines are also found in the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

Sardines tend to travel in large schools close to the water's surface and are harvested fresh in the summer. The name may be a reference to the Sardinian coast, where pilchards were one of the first fish to be packed in oil.

The origin of the canning process dates back to late 18th century France when Napoleon Bonaparte, concerned about keeping his armies fed, offered a cash prize to whoever could develop a reliable method of food preservation. Bryan Dorkin and John Hall set up the first commercial canning factory in England in 1813.

Playwright Alan Bennett said: “Life is rather like a tin of sardines - we're all of us all looking for the key.”

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