The Dumpster: Knowing your hash from a hole in the ground
If the big bomb hits tomorrow or ISIS hackers succeed in melting down our power grid, I’ll be happy living off the three-day supply of leftover minestrone my wife made. There’s half a roast chicken in the fridge too. If trouble lasts longer than that, things are going to get dicey.
Without electricity, I’ll have to use up what’s in my freezer before it spoils: three packages of edamame, some leftover hot dog buns and a bottle of Jägermeister. Actually, the Jäger will keep indefinitely, but it’s best cold so I’ll finish it out of respect.
All those ingredients in my pantry that seemed so important when I got them will start to look a little precious now: the three colors of whole peppercorns, the quinoa I only dipped into once, large and fine sea salt, six kinds of rice including cannaroli, sushi rice and some long-grain rice in a fancy package about the size of a cigarette box. I have a bag of dried garbanzo beans, flax seeds, enough dried lavender blossoms to make lavender tea (or lavender martinis!) for a year, a pretty-much full bottle of fish oil pills (they seemed like a good idea at the time but it turns out they taste like fish oil) and two boxes of panko, because I was at the store and didn’t know I already had panko.
Armageddon is hard.
I also scrounged up two cans of tuna, a box of whole oats, some flour and sugar, and three tins of cinnamon. In a pinch I could make a week’s worth of cinnamon tuna cookies.
On the brighter side, I have a fine stash of booze and a dozen limes, so I’ll starve smiling.
Grocery stores will have plenty of food, but when the power goes down their doors slam shut. Stores are unable to sell anything without their computers, you know. God forbid anybody learn to count money or do inventory by hand. Store managers will stand by while the ice cream melts and the red meat turns brown. Knowing my neighborhood, looters will bust down the doors before the first day is over, scurrying home with ice cream dripping through their fingers. The 300-pound security guy standing next to the day-old doughnuts ain’t gonna chase nobody.
Survivalists recommend we stock up enough food for a minimum of seven days, three months is better, a year is good. Actually, they don’t really want us to stock up. They want to take over the world while we stand begging at their cellar door. It’s no coincidence that the people who stash food also stash guns.
Canned food? Most of it lasts only a year. There is a long list of people on Survivalist.com who claim you can eat food way past its expiration date, but one doesn’t have to browse the website very long to get a clear sense of the brain damage caused by eating expired food.
The solution, they say, is to rotate your canned items: eat the oldest stuff and replace it with new stuff. In other words, to maintain a year’s supply of canned food you have to eat—and replace—a day’s worth of canned food every day. After 365 days of year-old corned beef hash, I’ll be begging for the world to end.
Freeze-dried foods last pretty much forever. Just add water. But if you can afford a year’s supply of those dear little meal packets, you can afford a private plane to fly you to where the real food is.
My plan isn’t to stash food. I plan to stash a list of the people who stash food. I’ll list them in order of culinary creativity, because I don’t want to kill a guy for ten cases of pork and beans.
Is there any food you can store indefinitely? According to reports, marshmallows, Twinkies and scotch.
Or, instead of me having to stock a year’s worth of processed food and instead of me having to kill my neighbor to steal his pork and beans, how about you politicians try harder to get along? A world of fresh food is worth it.
Michael Campbell is a regular humor columnist for Food & Spirits Magazine, where his “Dumpster” essays close every issue. His first book, Are You Going To Eat That, is a collection of 60 essays released in 2009. His off-beat observations have appeared in Reader’s Digest, and he was recently named Humor Writer of The Month by the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. Campbell is also a singer-songwriter known for purposeful melody and evocative storytelling in the likes of Marshall Crenshaw, Paul Simon and James Taylor. His newest album is due for release in fall 2014. michaelcampbellsongwriter.com His mom is still waiting for him to get a real job.
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