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Apocalypse chow pantry

Yuppie emergency food prep. The authors of Apocalypse Chow, a husband wife team, one of whom writes gourmet cookbooks and the other domestic spiritual lifestyle books, have combined skills and with their experience weathering Florida hurricanes, put together a book on emergency prep that is a real find. Since most people have not acquired the long haul skills of canning their own home-grown produce or cooking dried beans in a solar oven, this book most replicates the resources of your average urban household.

The premise here is that, in a prolonged power outage, you will have no refrigeration and must conserve fuel by cooking one pot meals on a portable gas stove. This means small packages of food that will be eaten once open so no leftovers and food that doesn't take a lot of time=fuel to cook. Half the book is recipes—all of them vegetarian because meat spoils. The other half is sound advice on how to prepare and live through the usual disasters from a culinary perspective. Thus is born Pantry Cuisine. The difference between merely surviving and really living. And since there will be lots of time to fill when the power is out why not spend it in food prep?

I like the tone of the book. It is reassuring but insistent in a quiet way, giving many good reasons why you should acquire these skills. With anecdotes from the authors' real life hurricane experience and tidbits of disaster prep lore from government sources, it is also a fun read. The list of possible disasters includes nuclear war and the actual biblical apocalypse with reasons why you would still want your haute cuisine. This is a sound approach to take because people seem to hope that things will be so bad it will be pointless to prepare. (Much like the college students who don't want to finish school because the world is going to end in 2012 so what's the point.)

Interestingly enough he also includes the detail of increased solar flares knocking out power grids. This, he points out, will only increase because the magnetic poles are shifting and that has lowered the electromagnetic field. (I've come to the conclusion that the entire future will be disaster ridden so we might as well get used to it, because we will still be expected to carry on, go to work and put food on the table.)

The book provides a five day menu and shopping list plus lists of kitchen supplies to augment the manual can opener on everyone else's list. He calls this approach the five-day wine box. There is also a list for a "well-tempered" pantry; items your basic home chef would want to have on hand anyway.

Since some items on both these lists I didn't feel inclined to serve and some I had never heard of, I took the route of going through all the recipes and picking out the ones I could imagine serving to a fairly fussy foodie family. Then I went off in search of the canned vegetables at places considerably cheaper than our usual Whole Foods. I was astonished to discover that you can get organic items at the Bargain Grocery Outlet. Canned potatoes are not found at our high end places, nor would we think to buy them. Nor would we eat canned green beans or carrots, but for the sake of the prep I found what I could in low sodium or no salt varieties.

For $75, the same as what I spent for emergency back-up dog food, I have ingredients for 12 dinners (or lunches) for 4 people, plus breakfast cereal and snacks. Freeze dried food would cost twice as much. As would MRE's (meals refused by Ethiopians). Most of the ingredients we would actually use since canned beans and tomato products are often in our repertoire. And I will try some of the recipes on my video night pals too. Cans last a few years so it would be a while before it would all go to the food bank. I could not bring myself to buy instant rice because the way we cook rice does not take much fuel. I just bring to a boil and turn off gas. A hotbox would help.

Because of recent Japanese disasters I had the blessing of my family to put all this together which made it easier.

Editorial Notes: Backpacking books are another place to look for ideas for Apocalypse Chow. Backpackers have to carry nutritious food that is light and easy to prepare. You can buy prepared meals for backpacking or make your own (much cheaper). One favorite item that may surprise non-backpackers: Snickers candy bars. This article originally appeared in Amanda's Flickr blog. Amanda Kovattana is a regular writer for Energy Bulletin. -BA

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