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This recipe was written and sent by Bobby Dekker.

“According to my dad, this dish started out somewhere in France, during the summer holidays, on a campsite, about 20 something years ago. He had bought meat for the BBQ but didn’t have anything else. My dad was always cooking a lot on campsites, and my little brother and I helped where we could. On this particular campsite was a small shop which only had some cans of beans and a few tomatoes. Pesto being a staple in camp-kitchens, a dish was born. Surprisingly yummy and so much fun for us kids to join in. It’s been a classic ever since.”

Bobby Dekker

About the salad

{…} For me this salad is always a part of camping. I remember it also as the first dish I could make mostly by myself. It felt powerful. Sure it is mostly just mixing beans, but there was so much more to it. First of all you’ll have to find a tree that’s far away from the tent to attract unwanted animals, but not so far that you get out of sight. Here you’ll drain the beans, seeing the different colours of juices mix in the grass. Getting the jerrycan to clean the goo from the beans and simultaneously trying not to get your sandals too wet because it’s already getting a bit chilly. Then of course, the mixing of the beans and tomatoes (probably sliced by my dad). And then the important task of adding the pesto! This was actually often my dad’s job, but after making it for a few years, I would do it myself. Somehow I felt there was such a perfect ratio, I kept tasting and adding little bits, mixing, tasting, adding.

What made me think of this dish is how easy it is to make where-ever you are. There hasn’t been a holiday where we couldn’t make this dish because we couldn’t find an ingredient.

About canned food

A traditional fish canning facility in the french region of Britanny in the 20th century
Page of the manual accompanying bundles of VSL air tight jars, bought in 1928

Canned food has the incredible advantage to efficiently preserve food for years without loosing any major nutrient in the process — from vitamins to carbohydrates and proteins.

Canning was originally invented in 1785 by French Nicolas Appert in the form of glass jars sealed with wax and immersed in boiling water. In 1812, unbreakable tin replaced glass, later followed by steel. After being used to preserve army rations during the two World Wars, canned food gradually became cheap enough for ordinary people to afford it, thus becoming a symbol of the “American Life”.

Thanks to its magnetic properties[1], steel is the most recycled material in the world: in 2018, 82,5% of steel was recycled in the European Union. Still, the variation between the amount of energy needed to the canning of food (including the production of the steel) and the production of fresh food is difficult to quantify, being so many variables along the food chain. For vegetables, canning might just have the upper hand over the fresh; just as well, the canning of small oily fishes helps avoid using energy which would otherwise power the fridges needed to transport the fresh fish from one point to another — which explain why fresh fish is always more expensive.

The main flaw of processed canned food is the frequent overuse of salt[2]. But the reason why canned food is regularly overlooked is that, in comparaison to fresh food, it is often believed to have poor flavour, texture, and questionable ingredient traceability. One reason might be that it is akin to pet food, canned and often made out of the waste of the food industry. Nevertheless, canned food can be considered a “culturally resilient” product. In countries like Spain and France, canned mussels, octopus, sardines and lobster are popular forms of “fine canned food.” Still one question remains: does canned food make sense in an age where fresh products can be transported safely throughout the world?

The recipe

Ingredients (for 1 adult and 4 children)

Several cans of beans (whatever is available, but a bit of variety in color and texture helps)[3]

1 can of corn

Some tomatoes (one to four, as you wish)

1 jar of green pesto (about half a jar)


  • Drain all the cans of beans (near a tree), rinse with some water.
  • Cut the tomatoes in cubes.
  • Mix beans, corn and tomatoes in a big bowl.
  • Add pesto to taste. Start with a few teaspoons and keep stirring and tasting. Half a jar is usually good for 4 cans of beans.
  • Serve as a side or for lunch. Tastes good with baguette and BBQ.

Related images


  1. By placing a massive magnet above a waste dump, the steel can effortlessly soar towards the magnet to be collected and recycled.
  2. Salt may commonly be used for conservation, it is however not needed in the canning process.
  3. I like to use chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans and white beans.