Why are there messages in a bottle and not messages in a jar? In movies, the poor, stranded heroes always land on a tropical island, with plenty of materials at hand to build fancy, elevated huts and even a suspended boardwalk. There is usually a wine bottle on hand to send a message into the waves, but never a canning jar. I have a theory about the reason for this, though it is not scientifically correct by any means. Here is what I think.
In the midst of a long journey at sea, especially if you become stranded, wine provides momentary solace. Once it is gone, all that remains is a craving for the illusion of well-being, and anger that it is no longer attainable. The bottle represents this illusion and once empty it is useless. In despair, one casts a message in the empty bottle. It says, “I am stranded and I am out of wine.”
The canning jar, on the other hand, or whatever cask or contraption happened to be its predecessor, represents true wealth because it represents lasting sustenance. It is as though you could line up jars on the beach and wait for manna from the heavens to fill them. It is virtually impossible to conceive of throwing such a thing at sea. In fact, there is good reason to believe that the person who finds it would disregard the message within and run home to grandma screaming, “Grandma, you can make us one more jar of your fruit preserve!”
More practically, it is easier to reach in and out of a canning jar than it is to reach into a wine bottle, thus making it the perfect receptacle to collect edible fruits and nuts while foraging around the island. And a canning jar doubles as a perfectly fine drinking glass, should someone bring help, and wine.
How does my theory hold up so far?
Furthermore (I am not done), canning jars are rodent-proof. This is a good thing if they happen to be filled with the harvest from your garden or other edibles you might store in them because you like a well-organized pantry, or you want to keep the fruits to yourself in your tree house.
Today, we have freezer-safe canning jars, granted this is rather useless on a deserted island, but what are the odds you will ever end up living like Robinson Crusoe? Unless you choose to do so, in which case you might be able to devise a means to contain your jars in a cool environment through the assistance of some clever sun, wind or wave energy mechanism. Keep a log book, your story may become famous in time.
Before cooking appliances made their way into individual kitchens, it was not uncommon for our hard-working relatives of the past to use the water-bath canning method over an open flame. The process of heating foods prior to packaging, in order to destroy harmful organisms, dates back to the late 1700′s. Thus even on a deserted island it is possible to can, if one happens to have a large pan, a few jars and lids on hand, as well as some good scout experience starting fires without a match. Incidentally, high-acid foods such as fruit and tomatoes can be canned using the boiling bath method. What deserted tropical island does not have high-acid fruit as part of its vegetation?
In truth, the canning jar is a time capsule in that it is a link to the past, when generations of families worked hard to produce sustenance from the land and to secure sustenance through long winters or long journeys.
The message in the bottle, in this case, is not written on paper or on a piece of bark from some tropical tree. It is written in the history of the jar itself; a history that is so necessary that even today, with our instant, quasi-beam-me-up-Scotty communications devices that might allow us to signal our exact coordinates moments upon landing on a deserted island, the canning jar lives on. It has earned our trust and respect because it is filled with nourishment that was poured into it with love. And that is manna from heaven.
“Thus we never see the true State of our Condition, till it is illustrated to us by its Contraries; nor know how to value what we enjoy, but by the want of it.” – Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
Click HERE to learn more about canning methods and safety guidelines.