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They had coffee from condensed milk cans at an early morning place that served fishermen.

This is a sentence from "The old man and the sea" by Hemingway. I'm not sure if it means the coffee was served inside cans or it is made using condensed milk.

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  • Probably both: the coffee was served in empty cans, which once held the condensed milk used to make the coffee. The condensed mild was probably not used to actually make the coffee (it is too thick) but added to coffee made with hot water. Mar 26, 2021 at 13:16

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The most natural reading is that it was served in those cans. However if the bar had a supply of such cans it implies they were using a lot of condensed milk so they probably used that in the coffee. At the time Hemingway was writing refrigeration was less common in Europe than it is today and condensed milk keeps until the tin is opened. As Michael Harvey points out in a comment the novel is not set in Europe but in Cuba where refrigeration may not have been that common either.

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  • " At the time Hemingway was writing refrigeration was less common in Europe than it is today", yes, and even less common, perhaps, in Cuba, where the story is set. Maybe you're thinking of The Sun also Rises, which was set in Spain? Mar 26, 2021 at 15:42
  • @MichaelHarvey that is very charitable of you. I think I was not thinking full stop.
    – mdewey
    Mar 26, 2021 at 16:04

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