Musty. Rancid. Bland. Not bad.
Such is the review of what’s believed to be almost 90-year-old soup compliments of a historic Vernon landmark.
Bulmans Cannery, located near the old Vernon Civic Arena, opened in 1926 and closed in 1976. The empty building and familiar smokestack were destroyed and lost forever in a 1980 fire.
However, some of its products were left behind with collectors. One can of dehydrated vegetables allegedly made its way to the eastern U.S. seaboard and was turned into vegetable soup.
An unidentified man, on a personal YouTube channel called New England Wildlife and More, posted a video on Wednesday, April 1. It shows a can of dehydrated vegetable mix. He believes it may be nearly 90 years old and it clearly shows it came from Bulmans Cannery.
“I do food reviews new and vintage, everything old,” wrote the man on his channel. “I buy all food and products in my videos to show how it holds up. History documentation showing old items. The stuff on my channel is bought from collectors mostly, or estate sales mostly, after someone dies, or auction for the special rare ones.
The latest video is titled ‘90+ Year Old Soup, Oldest Soup To Be Eaten,” and is 13 minutes long.
The front of the can is displayed, clearly showing Bulmans in all capital letters, red printing with gold trim. The words ‘vacuum packed,’ ‘serves 8’ and ‘net wt (weight) 2 ounces’ indicates the label was made well before Canada turned to the metric system.
The Bulmans’ logo and slogan – ‘Dependable Always’ – are also clearly identifiable on the label.
On the sides, we learn to store the can in a cool place. It’s a vegetable mix and “when cooked, may be used in place of fresh vegetables. Add contents of this package to 1 quart of water. Cook in a covered pan until most of the water is absorbed (12 to 15 minutes). Use in your favourite recipe. No previous cooking is required when adding BULMANS VEGETABLE MIX to meat, pie or stews.”
On the side bottom, the label reads “Bulmans Limited Vernon, B.C. Canada.”
On the other side is the recipe: “READY TO COOK. VEGETABLE SOUP. Add one package Bulmans Vegetable Mix to two quarts of soup stock. Season to taste. Cook briskly 20 to 30 minutes in a covered kettle. Serve hot.” For SALADS: “Use cooked Bulmans Vegetable Mix in Making Moulded Jelly Salads. Try Bulmans Vegetable Mix in these suggested Meat Extenders: Scalloped Dishes; Cream Soup; Meat Loaf; On Toast. NO SOAKING REQUIRED.”
The man opens the contents with an electric can opener and notes there is no vacuum, explaining that means it remained vacuum packed. He dumps the contents onto a baking sheet before adding it to boiling water. He notes there’s rust under the label and inside the can. He cooks the contents, following the instructions. It smelled good when he opened the can and he said some things “looked like Alpha Bits (cereal).” After cooking, he noticed a rancid smell from some of the noodles.
The man also tested for lead in the water and there was none.
He said as he prepared for a taste test, that the contents were “smelling kinda musty.” His first taste test was off-camera, and he said “to be honest, it’s not too bad. It’s bland but that’s about it.” He did a second taste test on camera, to prove the validity of his claim of eating 90-year-old soup. You see a man in an orange shirt with beard and moustache take a spoonful of the soup into his mouth.
“Now that, that’s pretty good,” he said. “It’s really bland but (small belch), but not terrible. In a survival situation that would keep you alive. This dehydrated soup mix held up to the test of time, and it’s better than any other food I’ve ever opened.”
The man adds a disclaimer that the video is for experimental use only, and doesn’t encourage anyone to try it themselves.
He then pours the soup and contents down the drain.
As of Sunday, more than 1,300 people had watched the video.
It was sent to the Vintage Vernon B.C. Facebook page by a man from Kitchener, Ont. The Morning Star reached out to the man behind the YouTube channel, with questions such as how he acquired the can and if, in fact, it’s a legitimate video due to the date of the post, April Fool’s Day.
On the channel are a number of other videos including the man-eating 50-year-old macaroni and cheese, taking 45-year-old Vick’s cough syrup and cough drops and consuming 60-year-old evaporated milk.
The website bcfoodhistory.ca, indicates Bulmans Cannery dominated the Vernon landscape for 50 years. Thomas Bulman started the firm in 1916 on a 4,000-acre ranch 16 kilometres north of Kelowna. The company began by dehydrating surplus apples. When it outgrew the dehydrator in 1926, the operation was moved to Vernon.
As many as 200 people, both men and women, were employed at the peak of season in 1932. The company prospered during the Second World War with the ever-increasing demands for canned and dried food.
Limited water supply and high freight costs caused the eventual closure of the operations in 1976.