The true measure of a great host is not what she or he serves you or how they present it, but what the host or hostess drags out of the basement or attic and open before their guests’ eyes.

The day after the most fantastic New England wedding near Worcester, Massachusetts, family and friends descended for another day of mirth and merriment.  Lemonade (cinnamon rose lemonade, I must say--our lovely hostess made Martha Stewart look like a hillbilly) flowed, stories exchanged, laughter echoed, and soccer was played.

Then things got crazy--we are of Armenian heritage, after all.  Our fabulous hostess decided it was time to open a 47 year old can of Survival Biscuits, a proud product of the now-defunct Educator Biscuit Company of Lowell, Massachusetts.  The iconic New England company eventually became part of Nabisco, but these enormous cans, which were left behind by a previous owner, survived the Cold War, Y2K, New Coke, and the disputed 2000 presidential election.

pistachio shells to show the can's scale

pistachio shells to show the can's scale

The Civil Defense, All Purpose, can of treats promised a minimum of 89 biscuits per pound with a minimum 1513 per can.  The 17 pound beast was a beauty and boasted resilience, strength, and calories.

The first issue was whether we should open the can at all, but after an iPhone check revealed the going price was about $15 on eBay, our hostess decided to sacrifice one for afternoon entertainment.  All of us were excited about what could have happened to the wheat flour, sugar, vegetable shortening, corn flour, corn sugar, soy flour, salt, leavening, and lecithin.  After all, when these crackers were entombed, Lyndon Johnson was President, Jackie still hadn’t discovered O, California had its finances in order, and the Beatles were still together.

The second issue was how to get the darned thing open.  Designers of products that were supposed to outlast nuclear war unfortunately did not much thought into how to open their goods.  A super committee of highly skilled relatives decided a manual can opener was the best way to go pry the canister open--and so the executive decision was made to open the can from the bottom so that they could use the old can for a door stop, bar stool, or a jail for a wayward Barbie doll.

Finally that bottom of that lid was peeled back, and alas, the rest of the crackers’ ingredients (BHA, propyl gallate, and citric acid) were not enough to save the 17 pounds of crackers.

The oppressively musty smell that permeated the most beautiful porch in Worcester was not a happy one.  A few brave, or mindless, guinea pigs dared to sample the crackers.  The reaction, displayed in the very bottom photo, says it all.

how do you open the darned thing?

how do you open the darned thing?

do not try lifting this at home!

do not try lifting this at home!

just turn the beast upside down

just turn the beast upside down

this is going to take a while

this is going to take a while

the corner has been lifted

the corner has been lifted

got 47 year old peanut butter to go with this?

got 47 year old peanut butter to go with this?

not bad for being banished in the basement for 47 years

not bad for being banished in the basement for 47 years

mmm . . . survival biscuits . . . how can you go wrong with a name like Educator Biscuit Company?

mmm . . . survival biscuits . . . how can you go wrong with a name like Educator Biscuit Company?

yeah, that's why you don't try something that's been entombed 47 years

yeah, that's why you don't try something that's been entombed 47 years

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he is a business writer and consultant. His work is has also appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He's pictured here in Qatar, one of the Middle East countries in which he takes a keen interest because of its transformation into a post-oil economy. Other areas of interest include sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). As of October 2013, he now lives and works in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.