Number 10 can (plus a surprise Hibachi)

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Oct 3 03:57:14 UTC 2011

You don't have to sell it to me--I absolutely agree that it deserves its
own entry in a dictionary. I'm just not convinced that this particular
connotation deserves a separate description--at least, not yet.

I used to show my friends on the East Coast a whole canned chicken I
acquired at a Wisconsin supermarket about a decade ago. It was a #5
can--the size that you expect to find tomato and pineapple juice in. But
the issue was not the can, but the content (AND the fact that it was
made by one of the major chicken broth manufacturers). Most people found
it somewhere between hilarious and disturbing. And different things will
evoke different reactions--a #10 can of tuna is likely to be associated
with institutional tuna salad--but that's the same ingredient in the
same form that goes into tuna salad in most restaurants that serve it.
Most people will accept such things, as they will tomatoes, beans and
green peas in a can of almost any size, along with three-bean salad,
soup, pie filling. But green beans have become less acceptable in recent
years, largely because they are just not "green". The same can be said
about canned fruit--some swear by it, others find it disgusting. And,
perhaps in order of progressively declining appeal, we'd have to list
fruit salad, chili, refried beans, beets, carrots, and, finally, potato.
Most people I know, consider using canned potatoes an ultimate sign of
hickdom. But, again, it's the content, not the size--in fact, a #10 can
of potatoes is more likely to get a pass because of its institutional
association, but an individual buying #1, #2, or #3 can of potatoes from
a supermarket will never live it down.

I'm simply concerned that the issues are being unnecessarily blended and
conflated--perhaps there is a reason why you have not found a clear
example in print. When you do (hopefully, more than one), I'll stand


On 10/2/2011 6:50 PM, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
> I agree that the citations are not robust, but if someone said to me, "It tasted like it came from a #10 can," I would take it to mean it had inferior taste such as you might find at a restaurant chain or cafeteria. Conversely, I might say to someone who complimented a dish, "And it came from a #10 can!" meaning that it's a surprise.
> That doesn't mean that all food that comes from #10 cans is of poor quality, but that the word "#10 can" has the connotation of institutional-like poor flavor. That's why I think it deserves its own entry, whereas other can numbers do not.
> Benjamin Barrett
> Seattle, WA

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