The Earthworm Express

Letter to the Reader


Dear Reader,

Welcome to the Earthworm Express!  Good butchers are invariably great experimental scientists.  They are forever tinkering with recipes and looking to create magical products.

Food is also a national priority for every government.  Centers of learning invested and continue to invest considerable resources to improve technology in food production, including meat.  In reality, the contribution of science and that of the observant butcher all come down to the same thing.

The earliest reference to this process is found in Mesopotamian records where there is a reference to the use of sodium nitrate to preserve meat which is to be preferred over another well-known preserving agent of the time, ammonium chloride on account of the slight astringent taste of sal ammoniac.  This process of experimentation and careful observations have no doubt been going on since humans became cognitive of our surroundings.

New scientific publications see the light of day non-stop.  It is hard to keep up.  Academia is bent on novel meat processing technologies and it dominates scientific literature.  Old school technology easily gets lost in the maze.  What is, for example, the best way to mix pork gelatin in water?  What are the benefits of pure honey in meat preservation?  There is the entire discipline of dry-cured and long-aged cured and fermented meat products.

Earthworm Express is entirely devoted to great stories from food science and technology.  In re-discovering the birth of old-school technology and understanding the science behind it, we are able to make sense of the novel technologies which see the light of day on a continual basis.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote in his magnificent work, The Tiny Work of Tiny Stories, that “the universe is not made of atoms; its made up of tiny stories.”  These are some of the tiny and not-so-tiny stories from the world of meat processing and the technology underpinning our trade.

Most of the work is dedicated to old and new meat technology.

Bacon & the Art of Living

A second feature is Bacon and the art of living. This is a project where I tell the story of the technology that underpins meat curing.   I do it in a  story based on my own experience of starting a bacon company and my continued work in an industry that I love.

In June 2008 I created Woody’s bacon in Cape Town.  I decided to use selected events from the story of Woody’s, re-cast them in the late 1800s and early 1900s and tell the story of the creation of bacon. I left Woodys in 2018 but the adventure continues and the book is being written through daily experiences.

It is a work-in-progress, but I present a few of the chapters.  There are interesting stories contained in it.

It also summarises the more technical work I have done.  For every chapter in the book, there are at least double the amount of technical work done, if not a lot more!

sir-david1.jpgAnother feature is Interviews with food people and articles about legendary food companies.  Here I celebrate some of the heroes of our trade.  I don’t get a lot of time to do so, but in the future, my plan is to focus a lot more on this.

Great men, women, companies, and other organisations who contributed or continue to contribute to the food industry.  In the picture to the left is Sir David de Villiers-Graaff, the grandson of the man who created the Imperial Cold Storage and Supply Company Ltd. whom Eben interviewed in 2014.

Site Mascot

Our site mascot is Big Yellow Bacon Man.  🙂

Social Media links

Earthworm Express on Facebook

Earthworm Express on Twitter  (@earthwormexprss)

Contact Details

Research and contact:  Any comments, suggestions, contributions, or corrections, please email me at or send me a WhatsApp on +27 71 5453029.

I trust you will find this as much fun and enjoyable to read as I have the pleasure of writing it.  Thank you for reading!


Eben van Tonder

A sample of the site in pictures

One thought on “The Earthworm Express

  1. What a stunning website! Very valuable information and very interesting reading.

    Great Eben!

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