For a long time, American cooks have envied Europeans the convenience of foods in tubes - spreads, pastes, tomato, garlic, and other condiments. Now, although they are not being made here, several countries are exporting these foods in the handy tubes.
There's a much wider assortment, too, than the familiar anchovy spread, once about the only thing available in this kind of package.
Scandinavian, West German, Japanese, Italian, and French spreads are starting to become available in American markets. There are seasonings and many kinds of fish and meat mixtures. There's even a truffle puree that comes in a tube.
Tubed food is ideal, of course, for picnics and camping. Nothing could be handier on a picnic than mayonnaise in a tube, and although you'll have to hunt for it at specialty shops, there are several brands of mayonnaise from Sweden, Denmark, and Germany.
On the other hand, if you like your own homemade mayonnaise or garlic spread, you can buy empty tubes with open ends and closing clips, at outdoor-equipment and camping stores.
But tubed food is not just for picnics and camping. A tube is a great space-saver and economy container for home use. The contents stay fresh for at least a year, unopened, and for several months after being opened, under refrigeration.
Tomato paste in a tube is immensely practical if you need only a few tablespoons and would otherwise need to open a large jar.
Some of these foods are ready-to-eat pastes and spreads. Others are concentrated mixtures to be used in cooking or cold mixtures, such as the double-strength tomato paste imported from Italy and France.
Perhaps the most familiar thing in tubes for Americans, not considering toothpaste, is the fish pates that the Scandinavians eat like peanut butter.
Abba Ab, a Swedish producer of prepared seafood specialties sells 16 million tubes of cod-roe, herring, anchovy, and salmon spreads a year. The company has just started an extensive American marketing program with spreads becoming more available in the fall.